Note to Spokespersons: Delivery Matters

Once you have simple, clear messages with strong proof points and anecdotes to back them up, there’s one crucial ingredient left—a strong delivery. Speech experts say voice quality drives initial impressions even more than content, which is something of a given.  Do you sound confident? Are you authoritative or even passionate? Injecting passion into your answers won’t compromise your credibility, as long as you’re not off the charts. But you won’t even break through the noise if you don’t sound as if you feel strongly about your topic.

The most significant influence is your persona, the composite non-verbal picture—your general demeanor and bearing, including things like eye contact, facial expressions, posture and gestures—even a firm handshake. On radio, that will all have to come through your voice, so remember: The hand is to the voice as the conductor is to the orchestra. Your voice will follow your hands. Use them to make your voice more animated.

Non-verbals can have a bigger impact than words, and on the listener’s willingness to believe you.  Delivery and non-verbals don’t just matter for television, either. Print journalists are like any other audience in that they employ all five senses to make judgments and form opinions. You can be fully prepared but fall short of your communications objectives if you don’t look and sound genuine. As the English novelist E.M. Forster put it in Howard’s End:

“Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon.
Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted."

This article was written by Walt Parker, senior vice president of media training for Weber Shandwick and Liz Mikly, vice president of media relations, also for Weber Shandwick. A larger version of this piece will appear in PR News' upcoming Media Training Guidebook. Check back with for updates.

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