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  • Bruce Rule

Public Speaking Starts the Minute You Walk in the Room (Or Get on the Call)

rule communications Bruce Rule
Remember You Are On Stage The Entire Call

To become a more effective communicator you should keep in mind that you are always communicating when you are in the presence of others, whether that is in person or on a Zoom call. The way you present yourself before and after your turn to speak can be just as important in public speaking as your actual presentation.


In a previous post, I explained that one benefit to showing up early is that you can greet audience members individually so they will be more receptive when you begin your presentation. This is especially beneficial when the people you will be speaking with are strangers. But it works just as well when they are your co-workers or people you see regularly. People like to be recognized. And if you take the time to say “hello” before the meeting it will work in your favor.


In fact, I advise going even further when the audience is your co-workers. If you pass them in the office before the meeting tell them you are looking forward to getting their feedback after your presentation. Mention that you are glad they will attend. These are little things, but they help.


Send the Message


From the moment you are in the room or on the Zoom call show enthusiasm and confidence by smiling, sitting up and paying attention. Send the message that you are happy to be there and you are eager to share your presentation. That will put your audience in the right frame of mind to hear what you have to say.


I have seen the reverse in action, by the way. On a Zoom call a few years back one presenter had a resting face that was a combination of annoyed and bored. From the moment she got on the call she was sending the unconscious signal that she did not want to be there (whether that was true or not). By the time she spoke I think all of us on the call dreaded what she was going to say. She was perhaps a minute into her presentation when it became clear that there was nothing dreadful to her presentation, but her expression had been so distracting she wasn’t very persuasive in making her point.


If you are giving a presentation in person and will be called up to the front of the room, remember people will be watching you from the moment you are introduced. Make sure you send a positive message by smiling and walking confidently—even eagerly—up to the room. One woman I knew at Toastmasters used to fairly jump out of her seat and run to the front with a huge smile when her name was called. That kind of enthusiasm can spark a crowd.


On a Zoom call you need to be aware that you are on camera the entire time. Show respect to other speakers by paying attention, nodding occasionally or taking notes to indicate that you are listening intently. People will notice if you look bored or distracted when others are speaking, and may not pay much attention when it is your turn. After all, why should they? If you can’t be respectful when they are talking why should they treat you any differently?


Unless the call is specifically designated a breakfast or lunch call, do not eat or snack while others are talking. It is disrespectful. A bottle of water is acceptable and prudent to have on hand. I think a plain coffee mug is OK for business meetings where everyone knows each other, and the moderator or the highest-level person on the call has one. If you prefer juice, soda, an energy drink or something else I suggest pouring it into the plain mug.


After the Call


Finally, your presentation isn’t really over when you are done talking and taking questions. If you are on a Zoom call, continue to pay attention to what others are saying, continue to be respectful, and continue to show enthusiasm and confidence. In person, walk back to your seat with a smile, sit in a confident pose and turn your attention back to the person running the meeting. Do this even if your inner critic is busy castigating you for a few verbal flubs or telling you how much better you could have done. (Read this post for more on your inner critic.)  


When an in-person meeting adjourns, take time to thank people individually for listening and pay attention to any feedback they offer. You can decide later whether the feedback is worthwhile, but while they are giving it be respectful even if you disagree. The fact that they are taking time to talk to you is a good sign that you have built a connection, which will help you be more effective in the future.


Because, remember, becoming a good public speaker is a journey, and you should always be thinking about how you can improve in your next opportunity.


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