Show You Care: Expressiveness in Public Speaking

April 20, 2009 | | Comments Off on Show You Care: Expressiveness in Public Speaking

Do you want to have more impact as a public speaker? Then, you need to have more of an impact upon the audience. How? Simple: bring in the feeling.

  1. Audiences won’t care if you don’t care.
  2. Audiences don’t know that you care unless you show that you care.

So, how do you show some emotion? How do you bring in the feeling?

Start with Your Voice

When you are angry, how do you sound? When you are in a good mood, how do you sound? When you are bored, how do you sound?

Here’s a hint: speak with some passion in your voice. Don’t be afraid to sound angry if you are presenting material that’s upsetting. Don’t be afraid to sound like you’re enjoying yourself after delivering a particularly funny line.

Just don’t sound bored… unless you are bored. In which case, you might want to try developing a more interesting speech.

Here’s the best part: you don’t need any training! You just need to realize that people in the audience will feel what you feel if you are willing to express it to them.

Facial Expressiveness

You want the audience to see that you mean what you say, so say it with your face. If you sound angry, then make an angry face. Furrow your brow or frown. Interestingly enough, this will also help you vocals. People who look angry generally sound angry, too. Likewise, if you put on a smile, you will sound more cheerful. And, of course, if you look bored, you will sound bored.


The natural inclination is to move as little as possible. This might very well be instinctive. When we sense danger, we often freeze. This works great against rattlesnakes (I think, and I hope never to have to test that), but it’s not so good in public speaking. At best, you appear unengaged, and at worst, you are radiating waves of pure fear into the audience.

So, loosen up! Move your hands as you express yourself. Gesture to the audience. Point toward ideas or objects (if you are using overhead slides). And, if appropriate, move around a little bit. Of course, don’t pace up and down like a caged tiger, but give the audience a sense of movement.

Lead and They Will Follow

All of this will help the audience to understand how you feel and how they ought to feel. Will they? It’s difficult to say, but I’ve seen enough bored expressions on the faces of audiences mirroring the uninteresting expressions, emotionless monotone voices of stiff speakers who refused to show they cared even a little bit about the audience or the message. I’ve also seen speakers take a chance and express themselves fully as the audience drinks it in and becomes excited by what they see and hear.

Show and Tell

I suppose it’s possible that a speaker could fool all of us into believing she cares when she really doesn’t, but more often, it seems that most speakers fool us into believing they don’t care when they really do. It all comes down to showing the audience. The passion of your written words can easily be lost in the passionless performance of the speech. Express yourself more than just in thought.

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