Don’t overlook the importance of smiling during your presentation. First of all, smiling is contagious. When you smile at someone, he naturally tends to smile back at you. Furthermore, a recent study has shown that smiling, even forced, has a beneficial effect on stress.
But that’s not all. With a real and sincere smile, you can quickly assess the audience facing you. By smiling, you’ll function like a sonar, sending impulses to identify what is moving around.
First, there are those who’ll quickly smile back at you, like they’re inviting you, almost unconsciously, to continue with your remarks.
Then, there are those who are more or less reserved, who’ll either confirm they are listening with a slight nod, or who’ll have difficulty holding your gaze. So you’ll know right away who you’ll have to put at ease, more often by initiating interactions – “you see what I mean?”, “has that happened to you?” – which will slowly break the ice.
Sometimes you’ll spot people who look at you but don’t react. This isn’t necessarily a sign of hostility. But if you smile at someone who doesn’t respond, it usually means he’s trying not to react. It could be defiance, misunderstanding or discomfort, difficult to say. This happened to us with a man at a small-group conference. When we prudently asked him if he had any questions, he replied that he didn’t speak much French…