Yesterday evening, our bank invited us to a presentation by one of their insurance consultants — and that caused me to run into something I have never experienced before in more than a decade of presenting and teaching people how to present! What I encountered was a thin smile — the presenter had this thin smile plastered on his face right from the start to the end of his presentation — and that lasted for a good hour and half. Fortunately, I had my iPad with me — so I used it to good advantage to pencil all my thoughts immediately!
Before we get to these thoughts, what exactly is a thin smile? Fortunately I found a picture on Office.com that shows exactly what I encountered!
We all do realize that the opposite of a smiling speaker is a grumpy one — and that’s not a great alternative. Yet, how many of you can tolerate a speaker who has a thin smile all through his presentation. So what is the balance between smiling too much, and being just happy? Here are some thoughts to share — you can use these as guidelines to help you not cause a death-by-smiling experience.
- Don’t smile too much. The audience may think that you are laughing at them.
- Also if you smile too much, the audience may think you are covering up your lack of confidence.
- Smiling also has quite a bit to relate to the topic of your presentation. If you are discussing something funny, it might work — but if you are doing a session on bankruptcy or some other negative topic — then the smile may be a huge liability. Our presenter was talking about insurance, and most of that related to benefits after the death of an insured person — the thin smile was totally out of place.
- Smiling distracts the audience from your speech. At this point of time, you have lost the attention of the listeners.
- If you smile too much, your audience will avoid eye contact with you. That may be detrimental to the reason and objective of your presentation.
- Presenters who smile too much may come across as insincere, insensitive, unconcerned, and untrustworthy.
Now by extolling the virtues of not smiling, I do not mean that you should not smile at all. You should certainly smile when appropriate, especially when you are directly speaking with a single member of the audience. And a “thin smile” is something entirely different from a regular smile — the former seems plastic and uninvolved while the latter also results beyond smiling lips to smiling eyes. And a smile that stops after a few seconds is always good. Soon thereafter, you can get back to talking in your most business-like, neutral tone so that you can continue to hold the attention of your audience.