One of my favorite Seinfeld episodes is the one where Elaine’s boss calls her into his office to discuss her edits to a manuscript and asks her to explain all the exclamation points. In a halting, hesitant response, she tells him that the writing lacked “a certain emotion and intensity.” He then tells her to go back to her office and delete them all.
I thought of this scene after sitting through a pitch meeting consisting of 15 presentations, all but two lacking in emotion and intensity. The two presentations that contained verbal exclamation marks left a positive impression on the audience. In fact, they were the only two discussed in explicit terms at the debrief meeting.
The myth of business presentations is that the presenter must be smart, analytical, and strategic (the dominant ISTJ mindset) and that any display of emotion or positivity will be viewed as dumbed-down, pom pom-waving cheerleader antics (the classic ENFP approach). I do not mean to offend cheerleaders or ENFPs. Try being on a team without an ENFP. You won’t like it very much. Rather, I am suggesting that most presenters need to add a bit of theatrics into their presentation style. We all live in an “entertain-me” society, which means that a presenter who is devoid of emotion and intensity makes no impression. To further illustrate this point, here is what one of the reviewers wrote about a particularly dull presenter: “No impression. Colorless.”
So, how did the two presenters wow the audience? What made them stand out from the others? First, their verbal delivery was positive, assertive, and compelling. Second, their non-verbal gestures aligned with and even enhanced their words. Third, they told a story.
If you need to ask for money, get approval for your project, ask for a promotion, or make a few remarks at a co-worker’s going-away party, practice speaking in an exclamation mark style while making eye contact with your practice audience. Then deliver your remarks again with less energy and no eye contact. Which worked better?