Adding gravitas to a presentation or speech

Speaker with gravitas

Gravitas. Apparently some people have it, others don’t and some of us can lend an air of it to an occasion.

We’ve all been told at some point or another that gravitas is good, it helps to get things done and that it’s respected by others, but just what exactly is it and how can it help when public speaking?

Good old Wikipedia defines gravitas as:

“Gravitas was one of the Roman virtues, along with pietas, dignitas and virtus. It may be translated variously as weight, seriousness, dignity, or importance, and connotes a certain substance or depth of personality.”

If gravitas is indeed ‘weight, seriousness, dignity or importance’ then surely we should always want to communicate this virtue to our audience whenever we speak in public.

But how?

Yes, we may be nervous, we may be pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone and we may not feel like the most important person in the room, but this does not mean we cannot perform with gravitas.

What produces gravitas in public speaking?

The weight, seriousness, dignity or importance of a topic can be emphasised by:

- Knowing your topic well
- Presenting your topic clearly and in a well-organised manner
- Emphasising the importance of your topic with key examples, facts and pauses
- Holding oneself in a dignified way when we speak, upright, eyes forward and with a big smile.

Are any of these beyond you? Can any of these skills not be learned and/or developed? Of course not – gravitas is in fact not a God-given skill, it’s something that we can all have with careful practice and development.

How are you going to bring gravitas to your next speech?

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Rich Watts is the UK Business Speaker of the Year and a past JCI National Public Speaking champion. He setup and now runs Rich Public Speaking providing presentation skills and public speaking training.

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