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By making the most of your talents, you never come up short
I recently worked with a 6-foot-2-inch woman, one of the tallest I've ever coached. "I used to be a volleyball player," she told me.
She was surprised when I told her that her height wasn't just to her advantage as an athlete. It was a great advantage as a speaker as well.
Of course, people come in all shapes in sizes with all manner of physical characteristics. Some of those traits will help you as a speaker. Others might hinder you. Here are some ideas on how to make the most of what nature has given you.
Take advantage of your height
Height conveys a sense of leadership and presence. On average, the taller you are, the more money you make, according to a 2004 study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. Something about height conveys a sense of leadership.
To maximize the use of your height, make sure you reach out with your arms and make yourself look even bigger. Make big gestures and move around the conference room or stage. Movement gives you a sense of commanding the room.
If you're an especially big person, be careful not to intimidate. We had a client that was a former linebacker from the NFL. He was a huge man and he needed to make sure that he smiled as he spoke. Otherwise, he would come across as an intimidating ogre.
Maximize your size if you're short
Genetics don't have to determine your destiny as a speaker. If you're not tall, you can maximize your presence. By refusing to stand by a lectern, you'll avoid highlighting your small stature.
One of our coaches stands 5 foot 1 inches. But she comes across with great presence by reaching out with her arms, making strong gestures and moving with purpose.
Don't get lazy with a deep voice
People with deep voices often fail to fully take advantage of their gift. We had a man in a program who sounded like James Earl Jones. But he seemed content to speak in a deep monotone. He needed to add more variety. We urged him to make his voice move up and down like a roller coaster, varying volume and speed and throwing in pauses to draw in the listener.
Make up for a squeaky voice
Some people with high squeaky voices actually go to speech therapy. But there are other measures.
Rather than worrying about your voice, focus on eye contact. Powerful eye contact will help you connect with the audience regardless of your voice quality. Make sure that you're making eye contact with individuals and holding it through a thought. Four to five seconds is best.
Strong eye contact fixes things
Indeed, better eye contact is almost like duct tape for style issues. It fixes almost anything. Have a heavy foreign accent? Make sure that you slow down on your key points and make strong eye contact. Confined to a wheelchair? Leaning forward in your chair, coupled with strong eye contact, will help you connect.
Not everyone can be tall and speak with a deep voice. But that shouldn't hold you back. Anyone can find a way to connect with his or her audience.
Joey Asher is president of Speechworks, a selling and communication skills coaching company in Atlanta. He has worked with thousands of business people helping them learn how to communicate in a way that connects with clients. His new book, 15 Minutes Including Q&A: a Plan to Save the World from Lousy Presentations, is available now. He also is the author of three previous books, including How to Win a Pitch: The Five Fundamentals That Will Distinguish You from the Competition, Selling and Communication Skills for Lawyers and Even A Geek Can Speak. He can be reached at 404-266-0888 or email@example.com.