Here is a link to the… “Public Speaking Today” manual written by Dr. Frank Lockwood (U. Arizona), and Clarence Thorpe (U. Oregon). Time stood still on the subject of public speaking. “Today” in 1922 is today in 2009. Judge for yourself.
" Society still cherishes its gifted speakers; and every national crisis gives added proof of their value. [...]In times of great national danger and excitement it is almost necessary to reach the people thus, by direct appeal through the eloquent voices of trusted leaders. Great reforms are seldom carried through without the aid of impassioned orators.[...] There is no surer or simpler way to effect this change from cold knowledge to urgent conviction and flaming action than through the living personality of the orator. But the speech can be no greater than the speaker; eloquence is chiefly char- acter put into words and deeds."
Getting your project proposal accepted and funded is as much a matter of scientific excellence as one of character and of attitude towards your audience. Later on in the manual Dr. Lockwood defines that attitude.
The men who have most constantly won their way into the hearts of audiences have been the men who have shown genuine interest in the people. They have desired to be on good terms with their listeners, and they have made this plain in the frankest and most unmistakable ways.
So smiling at the beginning of your presentation is necessary, but it is not sufficient. Showing a genuine interest in your audience cannot be done unless you have prepared your talk with your audience in mind. What interests the people attending your talk? Are you tailoring your talk to deliver what they need or do you hope one size (your size) fits all? When difficult questions come during the Q&A, do you answer in a way that demonstrates you wish to remain in good terms with the questioner? The audience hears the depth of your science in your assured voice, but does it also hear the whisper of your heart? 🙂
By Jean-luc Lebrun