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Don’t Turn Your Back to the Audience

In the middle of his presentation, the speaker walked over to a board, turned his back to the audience and turned a piece of paper over and stuck it to the board. The paper had one word on it. He discussed the point he was making which related to the word on the board, and then repeated the same procedure for another word. He did this eight times. Eight times he turned his back to the audience.

Many people do exactly the same thing when doing a PowerPoint presentation. They turn their back to the audience and look at what’s up on the screen.

Turning your back to the audience during a presentation is a major faux pas. Why? There are a few reasons.

  • You lose eye contact with your audience, thereby breaking the spell you had them under with your dynamic presentation.
  • It looks odd to be looking at a speaker’s back rather than his face.
  • Keep in mind that gestures, body language, eye movement and facial expressions are adding far more to your speech than your actual words. Peter Fogel reports that ninety three percent of communication is non-verbal. Turn your back and you’ve lost 93% of your presentation.
  • When you turn your back to the audience not only do you lose your non-verbal communication, it becomes difficult to hear what you’re saying.
  • When you’re doing a PowerPoint presentation and you turn your back to the audience to read the slide, it looks like you don’t know what’s on the slide. You’ve lost your credibility.

If it’s a no-no to turn your back to the audience, how do you work with props and PowerPoint? Glad you asked.

  • If you’re using PowerPoint, have your computer screen facing you as you face the audience. You can always tell exactly what’s on the big screen just by looking at your computer screen. You need never turn your back to the audience.
  • If you’re using a flip chart, preprint words on the chart as you face the audience, then stand at the side of the flip chart, still facing the audience, and flip the page. Or, you can always hire Vanna White to do it for you!
  • The board the first gentleman was using had a Velcro surface. He had each word printed on another Velcro surface which he had turned backwards so the words couldn’t be read until he was ready to turn them over. He fumbled quite a bit turning the words over. Eight times! Instead of turning the words over, he could easily have covered the words with another strip he could simply pull off as he continued to face the audience. It would actually have been better for him to use a flip chart.

Remember, when you give presentations, never turn your back to the audience. Only an orchestra conductor can do that.

Mary Anthes is a business owner, speaker and a Distinguished Toastmaster. She can be reached at nmanthes@shaw.ca


 
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