The warmth of a smile creates an instant connection between speaker and audience.
A smile is a powerful thing. To others, it is an outward expression of warmth that they often can’t help but mirror. For yourself, smiling has a powerful impact on the way in which you perceive the world. In fact, the act of smiling alone elicits a chemical reaction from your body— releasing dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins that literally change the way you feel.
In public speaking, the benefits of a smile go far beyond the calming effect this chemical reaction can have on our nerves.
In presentation, a smile is yet another vital piece of the instrument that is our body, modulating the sound of our voice and so allowing us to more powerfully engage our audience. Your body is an instrument like any other; and, like the trumpet, saxophone, or clarinet, its design matters. Your mouth is the bell of your instrument, with the smile dictating its shape and, therefore, its sound. Change the shape of the bell, and you change the sound. In the case of smiling, this change is felt from the stage throughout the room.
Of course, not all speeches are happy or geared towards “positive” emotions such as joy or excitement. In fact, some of the strongest presentations are those that find their foundation in what we consider to be “negative” emotions, such as anger, frustration, and sadness. In these moments, your smile might seem counterintuitive, and in a way it is—like forcing yourself not to shiver in the cold. Yet, losing our smile is an instinct we must learn to control. Why? Because your smile controls the temperature of the room.
The idea of emotional temperature isn’t a new one. In presentation, understanding how to both take the emotional temperature of a room, and more importantly, change it, are powerful tools on our proverbial utility belt. There is a reason that receptionists, administrative assistants, and call center agents are taught to smile while answering the phone. The warmth of a smile creates an instant connection between speaker and audience—or, in the case of the call center, between service rep and customer. Lack that warmth, and you’ll begin your presentation with a distance between yourself and your audience created by the colder, negative tone.
As much as a smile changes our expression, its impact is felt just as strongly in the change in your voice. Lose your smile, and the temperature of the room changes by degrees. This is important because your audience is keyed into the room’s environment completely. By smiling you generate warmth that attracts your audience, connects with them, and as your smile lessens or grows your control over the resulting change in sound allows you to regulate the emotional temperature of the room without losing the connection between you and your audience.
How? Well, it comes back to the mirroring effect. There is a harmony that exists between people as they interact. This harmony is strongest between your audience members, but it is one that we, as speakers, can tap into. Where there is a lack of engagement on the part of the audience, what we are seeing is a symptom of disharmony—a disconnect between presenter and audience. Smiling at the beginning of a presentation is an easy way to tap into the harmony we need to connect with our audience.
As we’ve said before, a smile is an expression of warmth that we often cannot help but mirror. By smiling at the beginning of a presentation, we bring ourselves onto the same wavelength as our audience—we connect and harmonize with them. Not only do they see the smile in our face and respond to it, but that response is deepened and reinforced when they hear the warmth of the smile in our voice. Then, as our emotions and our smiles change throughout our speech, the emotions of our audience will change with us.
The important thing to remember here is that—even as you begin to speak on more serious topics, topics that might access those ‘negative’, ‘colder’ emotions—the audience is not your enemy. What I mean by this is that while your topic might find its roots in sadness or anger, neither emotion should be directed at your audience. Your audience should feel your presentation with you, not from you. Your smile is not for your topic; it’s for your audience.
Remember, public speaking is a service industry. As speakers, we must find a way to build ourselves into a presentation instrument that will elicit the strongest response from our audience. As it turns out, the instrument we respond to best is a smile.
Ashar Mohammed is Nutritionist, Networking Business Coach, NLP Practitioner, Life Coach, and the author of Home Work Out Bible and Healthy Eating. After earning a MBA, Ashar worked in business for his family and on his own for 13 years, until becoming a coach in 2015. Now pursuing his true passion, Ashar has helped thousands of people around the world to achieve their freedom—freedom from disease, freedom of time, and travel and financial freedom. For more information, visit his blog at ashardxn.blogspot.se.