Well being: How to take control of your presentation

How can you deliver a presentation in a way that makes your audience take notice? For independent voice coach Kim A Page, the answer is to train your voice to become more dynamic, elastic and connected with your “gut feelings”.

While most people assume an effective speaking voice is a trait you are born with, Ms Page claims that’s an illusion.

“Engaging with an audience is a skill, like learning to drive a car,” says the Norwegian-British Ms Page, who lives in Dubai. “You can learn it by practising some warm-up tools and opportunities to explore the range, pitch and articulations of your voice.”

Interestingly, at this month’s Global Women in Leadership Economic Forum in Dubai, PowerPoints will be banned for the first time, according to the event’s founder Sophie Le Ray, also the chief executive of Nas­eba. “I want those on stage to speak from the heart,” she says.

So what’s the best way to get your delivery right? The first rule, according to Ms Page, is that your voice comes from your stomach. “If it comes from your throat, it’s very annoying when you start speaking loudly,” she explains. “In some cases, people unconsciously project their voice through their nose, or they stop using their lips so they are not articulating. This makes the voice very undynamic.”

Another sin is talking too quickly. “Anything communicated that is very rushed on a non-verbal level is actually very low status because it’s signalling submission,” says Ms Page. “But often when we’re trying to get our message across, we talk quickly because we think ‘I need to get their attention.’”

Unfortunately, if you feel nervous your voice tempo accelerates even further. And anxiety can cause other symptoms to kick in. “First your inner leg starts shaking, then you get butterflies in your stomach and then it goes up to your chest and you start hyperventilating”, says Ms Page. “If the nerves continue, they go up to the throat and you get a dry voice.”

Ms Page also advises against listening to yourself to perfect your delivery.

“Most of us don’t like ourselves because the sound comes from the outside, not the inside of our ear channels,” she says. “If you are feeling nervous, it might just make it worse.”

Kim Page’s five steps to speak like a pro:

1. Find your centre

Lie down on the floor and put a book on your stomach. Notice that when you inhale the book should go up, and when you exhale the book should go down. That place is where the voice should be coming from.

2. Listen to yourself laugh

Make sure that your voice comes from the stomach. Laughter always comes from the stomach, so one time when we have a really organic body-connected voice is when we laugh heartedly.

3. Breathe deeply

Take three deep breaths, or just blow down a little, before walking into the room or on to the stage. Imagine it comes from the souls of your feet. You are then grounding yourself downwards.

4. Include “sacred pauses”

If you make presentation notes, I recommend using a symbol, like a cross or a circle, in a different colour and applying it as a “sacred pause” whenever you have a transition from one paragraph to the next. It will take you out of that speediness and calm you down. It also gives the audience a chance to digest the information.

5 Vary your voice

A very effective tool is to go down in volume. The No 1 message then to the audience is “wow, it’s a secret” – you’re revealing something intimate. At the same time, you can sometimes go up in volume. So when you prepare for the talk, make a note where to project a little extra, or where you have that “wow” sensational moment to connect with the audience, in a soft volume.


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Jessica Hill

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