Surviving a Presentation, the non verbal way

by Tom Maguire

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To acquire knowledge, you must study; to acquire wisdom, you must observe.”

 -Marilyn vos Savant

One of the fundamental techniques of a fascinating speaker is their command of what they are saying and also how they are saying it. They know their content so well that they are able to devote part of their attention to the process of communicating it. That process is non verbal. The good news is that if you have a good grasp of what you want to say then you too can learn to present with excellence. 


Let’s take the introduction. Your content here is to tell the audience what your outcomes are, what you want them to learn from this session. You have two choices : say it to them or tell them and underline the message with non verbals. The second option will reach more people in a more powerful way.  

To achieve this you think of your three principal outcomes for the listeners, for example : open mindedness, support, commitment. Then you make up a short metaphorical story which includes these words. You might say: “As I stepped out of the hotel hallway into the sunny street this morning and made my way here I reminded myself to keep an open mind on what I had to say. I noticed the architecture of this beautiful city, especially how the elegant pillars gave support to the house entrances adding a classical touch to the whole street. As I got to this venue I felt energised and more committed then ever to your learning today.”  

As you pronounce each of your outcome words, pause and assign them to the audience by briefly stretching out your arms towards them, palms up. You have attributed to them the characteristics you want them to have at the end of the session, before you even begin. This will ensure that they know, unconsciously, why they are here that day. The seed has been planted. It is now up to you to continue to explicit your outcomes and show how you want them to work.

Your talk will probably be divided into different sections, each one flexibly related to the other in some way. Your next challenges are :  

*        how to keep the information flowing within each section

*        how to separate the different sections in the listeners’ mind.

Let’s see first how to stack the information so that it is connected up in the listener’s mind. This is where you can begin to mesmerise the members of your audience.  

It is recommendable to have some visual support for your presentation, whether it be power point slides, OHP transparencies or a whiteboard. This also provides you with three locations: yourself, the participants and the visuals. You have probably pointed to yourself in your self-introduction, you have signalled to the audience in your positive assignments of outcomes above and now you concentrate on the content, illustrated in the visual aids.  

You join your contents together within one section by using a pausing sequence each time you finish one point of information. The full sequence is:  

*         Pause.

*         Take a breath.

*        Speak,

*         Move.  

If you used this very example and wanted to draw attention to joining content you would :  

*        stop talking and remain still for a breath,

*         say “Pause” then point to the word,

*        stop briefly, remaining still,

*         say “Take a breath” then point to the phrase,

*        pause and remain still,

*         say “Speak” and point to that word,

*         pause again, remain still,

*         say “Move” and indicate the word.

      A further refinement is your choice of whether the information will be received as highly credible or more user friendly. To make the content top down credible, point directly to the word and keep your hand still. To make the information more user friendly bounce your hand from one word to the other when indicating the visuals.  

     Another example is when you have two big chunks of information that you want to seal together  in the mind’s eye of your listeners. The procedure is the same:  

*         Pause

*         Breathe

*         Tell your audience that productivity is up by 20%

*         Point to the graph showing this figure

*         Pause

*         Breathe

*         Say “This is how we get bonuses.”

*         Point to the chart.

There are other moments during your speech, however, that you want to separate contents in your listeners’ understanding. This is particularly true at points where you move from one main idea to another.  

Suppose that you have presented the idea in the second part of this article, joining content, and you know want to move on to discussing how to separate content. You would proceed as follows:  

*         Pause

*         Breathe

*         Point to the content section on your visuals

*         Talk about it.  

In short you reverse what you did when joining information together. This time you move then speak. This breaks the localisation anchor of the content and has the participant attach the new information to a new place, thus separating the two pieces of subject matter.  

You may find that when you use the separating pattern you will get audience participation in the form of questions. This is a sign that you are using the non verbals well. Use this opportunity to clear up any doubts about the previous section before mesmerising them during the next one.  

Happy presentations!  


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Tom Maguire has a BA (English), M-ès-Lettres (French) and Philology degree (Spain). He has 28 years experience in TEFL in France and Spain. At present he teaches EFL in a Spanish State high school near Barcelona and is participating in a pioneering website ( to give academic support to students, teachers and parents . He is interested in using NLP to enhance Learning to Learn strategies. He is a Master Practitioner in NLP and manages e-groups for those interested in NLP in Education and S.E.A.L.   Website: