A 4-part Series on Enhancing Your Current Speaking Abilities for Daily Impact
“Man stalks public speaker on stage while addressing group.”
This could very well be a headline for the most recent presidential debate. However, it describes an embarrassing episode early in my career when I was helping out another trainer.
Fifteen minutes into this workshop during a silent work period, the main trainer approached me and said, “You have to sit down and give me control of the floor”. I told him that I had been sitting all day and felt more comfortable standing. That’s when he said, “you are stealing their attention. I can’t have that during this workshop.”
It was a seminal learning moment for me where I discovered how public speakers shape and control their message by controlling the room.
When I was training for my instructorship, I was taught that there are essentially 4 ways that you can communicate your message to your audience. And these 4 ways all work in tandem to build a congruent message.
We’ll review these 4 methods over a series of 4 emails. The first method we use to communicate our message is covered here and deals with “what we do” when we are addressing our audience.
Be sure to click on to the link at the end of this article to receive exclusive emails on the other three methods.
First Method of Communication: What We Do
Earlier, I referenced the second presidential debate of the 2016 election. And I saw what most professional speaking coaches would call a travesty.
Mr. Trump, the Republican candidate, was not physically projecting a message that was congruent with the general message he was trying to portray.
He was not in control of his breathing. He stalked around on the podium like a caged tiger. He stood behind his opponent, appearing like a menacing overlord. He rolled his eyes, shook his head, scowled, frowned, sighed heavily… Hardly the image of a candidate fighting for law and order.
Now I am not making a political endorsement or indictment here. This is about messaging – how we create it, how we deliver it and how we support it.
Politicians Are Not Professional Speakers
Most politicians, while they speak in public, are not professional speakers. But they do hire professional speakers to coach them during debate prep.
If I were hired by the Trump campaign to coach the candidate for his next debate, we would first work on his physical presence to convey a simple, congruent message of strength, discipline, and control to match his vocal message.
Before you get up to deliver your next presentation, understand this simple truth – *you* are the message. The whole package is the message and all pieces of it must be congruent. If you want to convey confidence and control to your audience, your first step is to be in control of your behavior and your actions.
A Personal Lesson From My Past
Here is an example from my past. When I was training for my instructorship, my biggest challenge was simply to smile. My coaches and mentors were constantly telling me to smile more because, while I was happy to be in the classroom, my face wasn’t showing it.
As a result, my first set of students got the impression that teaching the class and coaching the group was nothing more than something I had to do. I worked on this simple behavior for a long time before I could step in front of a room and make the audience feel welcomed with a smile.
Which is why this was one of the first things I noticed about Mr. Trump in the debates. He rarely smiled. And like my students, I found myself asking the question that would impact my mindset: “Is he happy doing what he’s doing?”
Your behavior in front of your audience, or what you do, will play a huge part in conveying and reinforcing your message. Your first step is to control your behavior and use that behavior as a foundation for your message.
If you tell your audience that they are winners and that you believe in them while you have a scowl on your face and your arms are crossed, they won’t believe you.
If you tell your team that they are important and you care about what they have to say, but you roll your eyes and sigh when members of your team begin to speak, they will have doubts.
If you are trying to close a big contract with a high-profile client and you tell the executives that your product or service will handle all of their needs while pacing nervously and avoiding looking at them, those executives will be skeptical.
This is not something that will change overnight, but in the words of that ancient chinese proverb, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. Now is the time to take that first step.
5 Presentation Behaviors You Can Work On Immediately
In the speaking programs I have taught and coached, we use a variety of feedback methods, including immediate vocal direction and video recordings, to give our clients a full view of their performance and provide suggestions on getting control of their on-stage behavior.
However, here are a 5 activities you can use immediately in your next presentation:
Smile: I said it before, I’ll say it again. You have to look like you’re having a good time and that you want to be standing there in front of your audience. Naturally, you want to have a common sense approach here. If you are speaking at a wake or a funeral, you would look out of place smiling your way through the entire presentation. But you have to let the audience know that you are happy to be there with them. A smile is the first step to achieving this goal.
Plant your feet: One of the biggest challenges we have with first time speakers is getting them to stop pacing. Quickly walking back and forth is a sign that the speaker is trying to burn off nervous energy. And wandering aimlessly is a sign that the speaker is looking for direction. When we have beginners in our programs, we teach them to plant their feet and to speak from that position of power. Getting them to take control and stand still for 2 minutes while delivering their ideas is the first step to changing their behavior. If they can control their behavior and stand still during a delivery, then we can coach them on more complex movements to reinforce their message. So master the art of standing still.
Drop your hands. Many people I have coached claimed that they have to “talk with their hands.” Yet, that first time speaker will typically have their hands moving in every direction, totally uncontrolled and directionless. Again, this behavior indicates they are burning off nervous energy. In our more advanced programs, we work with people on how to use their hands to skillfully reinforce their message. But for the beginner, we work on them keeping their hands at their side. Use your hands when you need them. If you don’t need them to reinforce your message at that moment in time, leave them at your side, visible, but out of the picture.
Use open hand gestures. Don’t point with your index finger: When a person does find that they need to use their hands to emphasize a point, we coach them to keep their hands open and their palms up, as in a “giving” or an “offering” gesture. Using a stabbing motion with your index finger is not an effective gesture unless you want to send the message the you are blaming members of your audience for something. Open your hands and keep them visible.
Move with purpose and conviction: When the time comes to move, we coach people to move with defined purpose. If you are giving a presentation outside of the boardroom, say to a group of 25 people in a large conference room, you’ll find that you will need to move about the room to keep people’s attention and improve engagement. Before moving, look at the group of people you want to address, then purposefully move in their direction while continuing to deliver your message. Then, after addressing that particular group of your audience, look at another small subset of people to address, and then move in their direction. Your gaze should direct your attention. And your gaze should lead your feet. Let your audience know that you have a handle on your message and use your motion to emphasize that you are speaking with them, not at them..
These 5 tips will start you on your way to building a solid foundation from which you can communicate your message. The coverage in our beginners speaking programs includes these 5 methods and expands on them in our advanced speaking programs and workshops.
So in your next team meeting where you need to stand and deliver, or in your next client meeting where your clients are looking for a clear message on why they should buy, use one of the 5 methods above and turn your behavior into a communication asset.
In the follow up email, we’ll take a hard look at the second way we communicate our message. I guarantee this next method will open your eyes. To get the email click the link below.
Until next time, speak well!
Be sure to click the link here to get the next session of Maximum Influence – Speaking with Power and Passion.
P.S. Oh yeah, and remember, “Stand up! Speak up! Presenting With Impact” will happen on Oct 21, 2016. Sign up today to put these skills to use.