Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Speakers who are nervous engage in distracting behavior.  Most of us know not to jingle the change in our pockets, rock back and forth, or do other things that distract the audience from what we are saying.

So it's no surprise that people misuse laser pointers, which seem to have taken the place of jingling change. If your hand shakes so much that you cannot hold the beam steadily on a point, then you should not use one. If the beam is jumping all around the screen, the audience is definitely not paying attention to you and is instead wondering if you are nervous or perhaps have some dreaded neurological disorder.

I've seen some people try to compensate by using the other hand to steady the hand holding the laser pointer, but this just calls attention to the fact that the speaker is nervous and trying to hide it.

Another misuse of laser pointers is when the speaker constantly circles various points on the screen...endlessly circling... and even pointing to things that don't need highlighting.  It's just nervous activity, but is distracting to the audience.

I suggest using animation to highlight important points on your slide.  Animation frees you from fumbling around with a laser pointer and is more effective, in my opinion, to emphasize a point.

Another distraction, also due to nervousness, is hesitant speech.  Some people tend to say uh and um a lot when under stress.  I've talked about this habit in a previous post and some ways to minimize or overcome this tendency.  This impediment can be annoying to an audience when it happens frequently enough to be noticeable.  Also, excessive pauses and uhs can signal to the audience that you are not knowledgeable about your subject.  So it would be worthwhile to break the habit.

Another behavior that is distracting is rocking or pacing.  These are soothing behaviors that nervous speakers use to calm themselves.  Both behaviors divert attention away from your slides or what you are saying.  Becoming aware that you engage in this type of behavior will help you stop it.

As I've stated in previous posts on the topic of giving presentations, your goal is to make your audience comfortable.  Eliminating or minimizing nervous or distracting behavior will help your audience to feel at ease with you.

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