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Your Visual Package: What the Learner Sees


Thu Sep 01 2016

Your Visual Package: What the Learner Sees

The brilliance of your message is only part of what an audience will focus on during your presentation. The other part is you: the visual package you present. The audience views your presentation as a whole. So what they see—as well as what they hear—contributes significantly to how engaged they are and how they evaluate the time spent with you.

When I deliver the ATD Presentation Skills Certificate Program, we talk about how your audience interprets some of the things they might see. Here are some highlights.


Eye Contact 

What They See: You're looking at your slides or your notes instead of at them. You're looking at a spot over their heads. You're methodically shifting your eyes from side to side as if you were at a tennis match.

How They Interpret: Lack of preparation, lack of concern about connecting with them, or both.

What to Do: Communicate your confidence and enthusiasm for being there by holding eye contact with a random audience member for three to five seconds before moving on to the next person. Repeat throughout the presentation. Be prepared so you don't have to rely heavily on notes or slides.

Hand Gestures 

What They See: You're fiddling with your hair, glasses, jewelry, mustache, and so on. Your arms appear glued to your sides, making your gestures wimpy and weak. You repetitively jab at the air when making a point.

How They Interpret: Lack of confidence or control.


What to Do: Videotape yourself to get an accurate picture of what you're doing with your hands. Then develop a couple of hand gestures and use them strategically as punctuation to the points you're making.

Posture and Movement 

What They See: You're slouching and transferring weight repeatedly from one foot to the other. You have one foot wrapped around your other ankle. You're pacing or you're rooted in one spot.

How They Interpret: Nervousness; lack of confidence and comfort in your own body.

What to Do: Stand tall with shoulders back. Become aware of what your feet are doing through videotaping or asking someone to observe you. Move intentionally rather than randomly.

Facial Expressions 

What They See: You're frowning. You're grimacing. You're gazing off into space. You're smirking when someone makes a comment you disagree with. You look bored when someone asks a question.


How They Interpret: Unprofessional; arrogant.

What to Do: Videotape yourself speaking to a group so you can become aware of how your face looks. Ensure your facial expressions support what you're saying. If you're excited or passionate about some part of your presentation, show it. If you're annoyed, keep your face neutral. Recognize the power of a smile to show agreement, empathy, enthusiasm, and humanness.

Look at your presentation through your audience's eyes. Raise your awareness of what they see when you are presenting and make sure it is what you want to convey.

Join me at one of my upcoming ATD Presentation Skills Certificate Program sessions so you can be sure that your visual package is not undermining your message, but enhancing it.

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