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Ensuring Your Presentation Works for a Small Group

Q1:How do these external skills apply to small group meetings with just a few people sitting around a conference table?
Actually, the skills are the same. The room is just smaller. Good presentation skills work everywhere. This is the same as writing or speaking. Would you tolerate poor grammar or poor enunciation if the crowd were only eight people in a conference room? The key difference is in how you express yourself to fit the size of the group. You are not going to make wide, sweeping gestures, but you would certainly reach out to any size group. You would still use the three positions of the triangle, even though the space is smaller. You would still use the rest and power positions to add emphasis. The point is that your body language is expressed all the time, regardless of the number of people observing you.

If possible, stand up when presenting. This doesn't mean you can't control a meeting while sitting; rather, you get more power when your head is higher than people. That's why kings sit high on thrones, judges sit up high, even pharmacists—they're up on those platforms. It's a power thing.

If you are sitting, you can still create rest and power positions with your body simply by turning in your chair and angling your shoulders to the group. Gestures should be done with your elbows above the edge of the table, and your fingertips can still be used to reach out to include one or more people in the conversation. The actions of your body are always available. Small group meetings require a physical plan in your delivery style just as large groups do.

Resolving Eye Contact Issues

Q1:Is there such a thing as too much eye contact?
Obviously, in large groups the chances for direct eye contact are not as great as with smaller groups. Fewer faces for you to look at means more time to look at each face. When there are fewer people in the room, the eye contact with each one should be greater. However, too much eye contact tends to backfire.

Let's use the smallest group scenario: one other person in the room with you. Let's call the other person Debbie. If you are talking with Debbie and you make constant eye contact with her as you speak, after a short time she will have to look away. She won't be able to stare into your eyes continually, so eye contact between you will be broken. That means another object is likely to catch her attention when she looks away. At that point she is no longer listening to you because her attention is diverted to something else.

However, if you break eye contact from time to time while you are speaking, Debbie will have no choice but to remain fixed on your eyes, even as you glance away. You will have greater control of her attention if she is busy fighting for your eyes instead of you fighting for her eyes when you speak. And you really don't look at anything specific when you break eye contact because you are still talking and your eyes are only wandering on occasion in order to keep her more attentive.

When you are listening, you should always maintain eye contact. But when you are speaking, especially to fewer people, you should break eye contact from time to time to keep the attention of your listeners. In presentations, you allow the audience to look away by giving them a chance to glance at the visual on your display screen. The object of their attention, the visual, is still part of your message. In smaller groups, the visuals can be just as useful, but if the interaction is mostly one-to-one without much visual support, allow for occasional breaks in eye contact with your listeners when you are speaking.



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