even in a digital age of email and social media and text messaging, your physical voice is the most powerful communication medium that you have. this fact is never more apparent than when you have to give a business presentation.
anyone who has ever taken a communications course knows the three modes of persuasion: ethos, logos, and pathos. most frequently, we choose who we want to give a presentation based on ethos. either that person helped create what’s being discussed and knows the information better than anyone else, or they’re a vice president or executive who brings a certain level of gravitas to the table, etc.
logos we often times hope will show up on our powerpoint slides in the form of charts and graphics and vertical and horizontal logic. we’ll practice this piece over and over again until we believe we’ve gotten it right. does the presentation cover all the pieces we’d like to discuss? does it have all the information someone may ask about? can it stand on its own without the presenter around? (though that last bit is the biggest problem that i have with the way we approach presentations in today’s world, that’s a discussion for another time.)
what we never seem to focus on is the pathos of the argument, which a lot of times is the most important part. where we ask “does this person bring gravitas?” we maybe ought to ask, “does this person bring ‘gives a shit’?” first. you could be a titan of industry with thirty years of experience and a logical argument for why what you’re talking about is the greatest thing since sliced bread—backed with layers of empirical evidence—but if you drone on in a monotone voice without ever once tweaking a single emotional chord, the message can be lost entirely.
every one of us needs to get in touch with our inner thespian. we need to learn to use our voice to communicate how important our topic of discussion is, not just why it’s important. we need to use emotion to drive home our points. we need to make the person sitting on the other end of the table or telephone wire believe that we believe in what we, ourselves, are saying. we need to learn to convince people as much with the passion in our voice as with the powerpoint slides on our wall.
a high value, high quality presentation is as much a piece of performance art as it is a means of business communication. it’s about time we start treating it that way.