July 2017 Making Your Presentations Matter

Smiling Doesn’t Mean You’re Not Serious

Have you ever had a manager or colleague tell you that smiling made you look less than serious, or even unprofessional? I remember when one of my managers told me that business was “all about being serious.” Since I was young and new to the business world, I believed him and acted accordingly. It was particularly apparent when I delivered presentations. This was really unfortunate because my resting facial posture looks like a frown.

Every time I delivered a presentation (after I overcame my debilitating fear of public speaking), I adopted my “serious business face.” When that approach combined with my RBF (if you don’t know, you’ll have to look it up), it made me look humorless or even irked. Consequently my audiences tended to adopt the mentality they judged me to have – humorless. As you can guess, those presentations didn’t go very well.

I’m not telling you that you should smile like The Joker throughout your presentation, but a few well-placed intentional smiles will make your audience more receptive to your message without eroding your professional credibility. When are those times?

  • Before you speak. A smile while making eye contact with a couple of audience members before saying anything conveys the message, “I’m glad to be here sharing this information with you.” (This assumes that you are not speaking to deliver bad information.)
  • When sharing an anecdote that includes some lightness or humor. This can be especially effective if it’s self-deprecating.
  • When something unusual happens in the room (someone’s phone rings, something gets dropped, or when saying “Bless you” or “Gesundheit” to someone who sneezes).
  • When you misspeak or can’t find the “right” word (tip: I sometimes will ask for audience help when trying to find the right word; it enhances connection and rapport)

It all boils down to the fact that your facial expressions have an impact on the mood in the room. As the saying goes, “Attitudes are contagious, is yours worth catching.”

Find out more about the power of smiling from this TED Talk (https://www.ted.com/talks/ron_gutman_the_hidden_power_of_smiling)