The presentation as an act of heroism


The mere fact of standing in front of a group which waits to hear what you have to say confers powerful properties on you. It robes you in status. It draws people's gaze and compels their attention. As you draw breath to speak, your listeners instinctively catch theirs.

Imagine if - after just such a collective intake of breath - the followers of Bodicea or Hercules had been greeted with a puny voice and a lack lustre oration; the incongruity would have been greeted first with incredulous silence then explosive ribaldry.

To breathe freely enough to find a strong voice that would stir their followers into action, those heroes knew that they had to stand firm. Observe this heroic stance as portrayed by artists over the centuries: feet are planted against the earth but knee and ankle joints are also flexed and ready for action.

Upright necks centred over load bearing shoulder and pelvic girdles hold voice boxes steady and heads high but chins do not jut out menacingly. Foreheads are to the fore and incline benignly, acknowledging each listener. Eyes seek out and take in the furthest follower. Observe how the pop heroes of today make use of the confident bearing which allowed historic heroic figures to win over an audience.

Madonna's magnificently toned musculature allows her to move millions with her forthright sound.

Pavarotti stands proud, belts forth - and even unamplified - pins you to the back of your seat with the directness of his sound.

Elvis Presley - if he had not maintained the physical balance to support his famous Adam's apple despite the gyrations of the famous pelvis - would not have made it to fledgling prince let alone King of Rock and Roll.

U-2's Bono presented himself - from the word go - as if he already possessed iconic status. Had he not done so his voice would not be influencing world opinion now.

When heroic figures utter they intend to be heard and they are heard. They target the ear with well tuned vowels and well aimed consonants. They vary vocabulary, change pace, alter pitch and allow pauses: moments of silence when words latch onto minds.

Learn from heroic example that presenters who intend to be heard will be heard.

Learn too that to succeed presenters must always place the needs of their audience above their own.

Even when laying out ideas on flip charts, black-boards, white-boards, over-heads or slides; when having to change glasses to keep an eye on notes, clocks or tele-prompts, ( well …. Superman wears specs! ) presenters should remain alive to the needs of their audience.

If the task can also be performed with a generosity of spirit which identifies and welcomes input from colleagues whose prowess outstrips that of your own, it will truly be an act of heroism.

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About The Author

Janet Howd
Janet Howd

Janet Howd is a voice coach who works with corporate, academic, legal, theatrical and private clients in the UK, North America, Australia and Europe.

Older Comments

I think I could buy in to Janet Howard's concept if she had used words other than 'heroism' and 'hero.' Admittedly, giving an important presentation requires a certain amount of courage, but I would prefer to reserve 'heroic' for the sort of presentation Thomas Moore made to King Henry. We have diluted the meaning of hero and I find that unfortunate.

Richard Sumpter Kansas City, KS

The critical element mentioned here is INTENTION. Each of the presenters mentioned is spoken of as a power figure. The power is the power of intention. It is evident, but intangible. Whenever you are in the presence of a clear minded, determined individual, the atmosphere is literally electric.

The real heroism in presenting is the willingness to be exposed to the collective attention of the audience. This takes courage for most people and those who climb that mountain have the right to be regarded as a hero.

Ollie Lind Sydney Australia

Ollie Lind