One of my business’s taglines is “the art and science” of presentation excellence. Recently someone challenged the “science” aspect. Thinking “performance”, “stage presence”, “microphones”, “PowerPoint”, they felt speaking was more the “art.”
But speaking is a complex neuromuscular activity (I learned that in Speech 101 many years ago) . Our thoughts are transformed into energy that sets off a series of integrated systems involving the brain, lungs, larynx, tongue, lips, jaw, palate, etc. We tend to take all of this for granted.
Why don’t presenters easily stand still, use natural gestures and speak fully? Because they are nervous. And what is nervousness but an autonomic response to the unfamiliar resulting in palpitations, sweaty palms, dry mouth or shaking knees?
What about eye contact? The average person has no training in using their eyes to communicate in large group settings. Our eyes are “used” to working in one-to-one or small group situations. Eye muscles can be trained to target individuals in a group context (science) and then when paired with words, make a speaker more engaging and dynamic (art).
And think about this: if you hold your breath, you will be unable to speak more than a few constipated-sounding words. Breathing is essential to speaking. Inhalation and exhalation, (also known as inspiration and expiration), are a requirement for speech and voice. We breathe, (inspire) before we speak and hopefully, “inspire” others with our words and wisdom. Science leads; art follows – and we need both to be effective public speakers.
Thanks for listening.