Emotions play an active role in almost all of our decision making. That’s one reason why emotional intelligence, the ability to identify, understand, and manage those emotions, is such an invaluable skill. (It’s also the topic of my forthcoming book, The Practical Guide to Emotional Intelligence for Everyday Life.)
But how specifically does emotional intelligence help us with our daily tasks?
I’ve written previously on such topics as:
- Giving emotionally intelligent negative feedback
- How emotionally intelligent people receive negative feedback
- Three questions towards more emotionally intelligent meetings
- Advice on emotionally intelligent written communication
Now I’d like to address another topic: presentations.
Here are three tips to make sure your next presentation is emotionally intelligent:
1. Don’t get anxious. Get excited.
All of us get nervous before a presentation, even if we’ve done it hundreds of times. So take that nervousness and turn it into something positive: enthusiasm.
How do you do that exactly?
Spend those final few moments reviewing your favorite parts of the presentation. Remind yourself why you’re doing this, and focus on the value you have to deliver to your listeners.
Now, take that enthusiasm and give a talk that you passionately believe in.
2. Ask: How much does my audience know about this?
Here’s where the quality of empathy comes into play. For example, if we know a lot about a subject, it’s easy to talk over the heads of our audience. On the other hand, if our audience is well-informed, it’s all too easy to oversimplify the topic, in which case they’ll quickly become bored.
So when assembling your presentation, ask yourself: How much does my audience already know about my topic?
Keeping this in mind allows you to tailor the presentation specifically to your listeners, maximizing its impact.
3. Adjust your pace.
Many speakers also fail to show empathy by speaking too fast. And of course, we tend to speak faster when we’re anxious…or enthusiastic.
But when you’re delivering a presentation, your audience is at your mercy; they won’t ask you to slow down. If you continue to move too quickly, listeners won’t be able to keep up; as they attempt to process one piece of information, you’ve already moved on to the next.
How do you solve that? Well, the easy answer is to slow down…but that’s easier said than done.
Some practical measures you can take:
- Write yourself a message on your notes reminding you to speak more slowly.
- After asking a question, pause and count silently to three or four. (This gives the audience the chance to respond mentally.) Do the same thing when transitioning between points or to stress important ideas.
- Use phrases like “in other words” and “to put it more simply” to repeat main points in a way that’s easy to grasp.
- Cut your material: We all try to cover more material than we should. Remove everything that’s not essential to your presentation and it will be much easier for listeners to process.
Putting It Into Practice
The key is to think about your presentation from your audience’s perspective. Doing so will help you develop the emotional connection that keeps everybody engaged.
Enjoy this post? Check out my book, EQ Applied, which uses fascinating research and compelling stories to illustrate what emotional intelligence looks like in everyday life.
A version of this article originally appeared on Inc.com.