Engaging an Audience with Confidence

June 15, 2011

An article on being a highly effective presenter

State choice

High class presenters have state choice in every presentation context. The state choice is relevant to the state or range of states that is useful for the topic and audience.  The underlying premise of New Code NLP change processes is the Chain of Excellence. New Code games and change formats are built on manipulating the variables within the chain to give a peak performance in any context.

  • Breathing

  • Physiology

  • State

  • Performance

As a presenter it’s useful to have a baseline opening state for your presentation. This state will be one of balance, openness and without tension. When giving public presentations, you are presenting your state as well as your content. Your audience will feel your state whilst attending or not attending to your content. If you feel good about your presentation, it’s likely they will feel the same way. When you take the floor the audience will see you with a rhythmic breathing pattern, and upright spine, shoulders and neck. Note the difference in upright than uptight. There will be no tension in the body at all nor will the body be slouched. From the baseline open your peripheral vision so that calibrating the group is easy with you accessing information visually, as opposed to utilising internal dialogue which is to far too slow and linear for public speaking. In fact accessing internal dialogue and the kinaesthetic system associated with sympathetic arousal will limit you in your presentation because the output state will be one akin to nervousness.

As you can see, breathing is the first link in the chain of excellence and a major influencer on state. There is a New Code format called the ‘Breath of Life’ where an individual is coached to have the optimal breathing pattern to provide optimal performance in any given context. At trainers training we use The ‘Breath of Life’ pattern to enable people to have an excellent base line state for public speaking. The Breath of Life pattern is beyond the scope of this article, however I recommend you explore different breathing rhythms and how they impact your state and then select one from your personal experience that most suits the baseline for your opening state when presenting.


Your posture is so important when presenting because it provides your audience with their visual experience. The audience will be responding to your posture both consciously and non consciously.  In addition your posture/physiology is a factor in determining which neurological circuits fire in your system and therefore which state you are in when presenting.  There are no hard and fast rules on which body posture is best for public speaking, it depends on the content you are delivering and the audience. There are some definite postures to avoid.

Postures to avoid

  • Swaying from side to side or dancing back and forth

  • The fig leaf;  hands squeezed together in front of groin

  • Reverse fig leaf: hands squeezed together behind back

  • Asymmetrical postures ; one shoulder higher than the other, putting all weight on one leg for long periods of time

  • Excessive tension in back, shoulders and neck. This shows up as breathing from very high in the chest, with shoulders raised and arched

  • Slouching, shows up as curved spine, low shoulders and neck tilting downwards.

All of the above will be processed visually by the audience and also mirrored kinesthetically.  These postures will give messages about your congruence but will also distract the audience, and as a consequence subtract from the value of your message.

Useful postures

  • Planted; for the baseline stand still, with upright spine and fluent meaningful gestures

  • Gestures that mark out content.  Use gestures to mark out key content. Link specific gestures to specific categories of message so you are communicating in multiple representational systems and embedding messages

  • Movement; choreograph your presentation to include fluid movement using specific parts of the space to communicate key messages

  • Shoulders upright, spine straight, palms down to deliver authoratitive messages

  • Shoulders slightly down , slight curve of spine, palms up when gesturing to invite audience participation

  • Relaxed (but confident) posture, can be sitting when inviting the audience to take a different perspective on what you are communicating. This posture can be useful for metaphors

Watch yourself on video and explore where you can improve posture. Watch videos of presenters you admire and model their posture and include what’s useful in your style.


  • The tonal qualities of your voice will also influence how your presentation will be received. Work on your voice, to give a pleasant auditory experience for the audience. An important aspect of presenting is voice projection. Your voice locus is influenced by where you put your attention when public speaking. If your attention is on the front row, you will point your voice to the front row. Earlier I recommended you accessed peripheral vision for delivering public speeches. With expanded visual awareness you can automatically project your voice in a natural manner throughout the room. This is where you get increased volume without shouting.  To do this your breathing rhythm will change and be more diaphragmatic, adding resonance and base to your tone. It’s OK to talk quietly for parts of your presentation as well; the effect is drawing people to you. The important thing is to have choice with your auditory output.

Suggestions for voice

  • Flexibility; vary the speed, volume and tone

  • As with gestures and space, use tone to mark out key messages

  • Use visual, auditory and kinesthetic language to create a sensory rich experience for your presentation

  • Work on your voice melody

  • Work on distractions, like the overuse of certain words and phrases and ‘umming’.

You will note from the suggestions in the article that you are simultaneously and systematically manipulating visual, auditory and kinaesthetic representational system output to build rapport, engage your audience and enhance the quality of your presentation.  In this article I have emphasised that there are no hard and fast rules for engaging an audience, in fact some people can break some of what may be considered ‘rules’ and be very engaging.  However these people are usually very good in certain areas mentioned above to compensate.  If you test and explore the suggestions in this article you will find what works for you. I would be delighted to hear your feedback. You can of course, come and visit us at the Academy and attend one of our courses on public speaking and engaging an audience. It would be great to see welcome you to our centre.

Latest insights from our experts

Blog Derren Brown, placebo, pills and psychology April 22, 2024
Videos The Impeccable Inception – the birth of NLP March 29, 2024
Videos The Impeccable Inception – the birth of NLP March 29, 2024
Videos The Impeccable Inception – the birth of NLP March 29, 2024
Videos The Impeccable Inception – the birth of NLP March 29, 2024
Videos The Impeccable Inception – the birth of NLP March 29, 2024
Videos The Impeccable Inception – the birth of NLP March 29, 2024
Videos The Impeccable Inception – the birth of NLP March 29, 2024
Videos The Impeccable Inception – the birth of NLP March 29, 2024