Hartley Brody

Turn Your Nervous Speech Habit into An Awesome Presentation Tactic

nervous speech habitsFor most people, any sort of public speaking can be a bit frightening. This is especially true if you don’t have notes or lots of time to rehearse.

One of the most common faux pas that inexperienced speakers make is to say “uhh” or “umm” between sentences, while they’re trying to gather their thoughts.

But there’s a little trick that you can use to turn those awkward filler sounds into a powerful rhetorical tool. Simply ask your audience, “Right?” whenever you need to stop to gather your thoughts.

Here’s an example of a line from a presentation before and after:

“So as you can see, this is very important… uuhm okay, moving on to…”

“So as you can see, this is very important… right? Now, moving on to…”

Try saying them both out loud. The second one sounds much better, right? ;-)

Encouraging Physical Agreement

The great thing about having an audience is that, in general, they passively accept most of what you’re telling them. By asking “Right?” throughout your talk, you’re asking them to implicitly agree with what you’ve just said. And since they’re in a receptive listening mode, most people will concur without really giving it much thought. “Sure,” they think, “why not?”

It really works well when you look out at your audience and either nod or shrug your shoulders as you say it, indicating that the “Right?” is a rhetorical questions – of course what you just said is correct!

In my experience using the “Right?” tactic, audience members start subconsciously nodding their heads as the talk progresses.

Now, I’m not a psychologist, but I know that having an audience that is physically showing that they agree with what you’re saying is pretty cool.

People are more likely to think you gave a good presentation and be motivated by what you said if you had them nodding their heads the entire time. It’s certainly better than a presentation where they heard you stumbling along with “umm” and “ahh”.

Asking people if they agree with what you say is a surprisingly easy way to get that physical buy in.

Using “Right?” with Different Audiences

The tactic works differently on different types of audiences.

If you’re presenting to a more senior group and hoping for their buy-in, asking “Right?” might indicate to your listeners that you’re ready to hear any objections to what you just said. This may or may not be a good thing, so use it only when you’ve said something you’re sure they’ll agree with.

The “Right?” tactic is more effective with large audiences when there’s more limited interaction. Each individual can silently nod along to your rhetorical call for agreement. This can create a cascade effect. As individual audience members start to see those around them nodding along with what you’re saying, they subconsciously become more prone to nod along as well.

But the tactic is most effective when you’re presenting to a group where individual audience members might initially disagree with what you’re saying. If you ask “Right?” at the right times, you can soften everyone up and create a more agreeable environment. Once you’ve done that, you stand a much better chance of convincing the dissenters to forget their hesitation and agree with what you’re telling them.

It Works

It might sound like some preposterous mind control trick, but I’ve seen it work dozens of time by some of the greatest orators I know.

Dan Zarrella routinely gives talks in front of tens of thousands of professional marketers – in fact, he recently won the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest online marketing seminar. He asks “Right?” every few minutes in all of his presentations to help keep his audience engaged and agreeable, even when he’s making bold claims.

Of course, it also takes interesting content and dozens of other things to give a great presentation. But the “Right?” trick is an easy, simple way to turn a nervous speech habit into a compelling presentation tactic, and win over your audience.