Maximum Influence – Speaking With Power and Passion Part 2


A 4-Part Email Series on Enhancing Your Current Speaking Abilities for Daily Impact

In the first session, we reviewed a major component of how we communicate, our behavior. What we do has a big impact on your message congruence. However, there are other channels that we need to control if we want to insure our message is received by our audience. In this session, we’ll take a look at the second way we communicate our message, how we look.

Second Method of Communication: How We Look

Back in the early days of my trainer certification, my master trainer told the story of an instructor who was facilitating a class of about 30 people with ‘unmatched enthusiasm’. After about 15 minutes, an audience member got out of his seat and approached him.

Not knowing what to do, the instructor paused and stood still as the participant approached. After all, this had never happened before.

When the participant was close to the instructor, he reached out, pulled a white thread off of the instructor’s navy blue suit, and said, “Wow! That’s better. I couldn’t take my eyes off of this thing.”

Our eyes are attracted to the things that stand out in our environment. The shape, color, size, appearance, and arrangement of what we see grabs our attention and influences our thinking.

Think back to the last time you stepped into a bank to get a loan, or went on a job interview. Chances are, you put on a jacket, clean shirt, tie, made sure your shoes were polished, hair combed, teeth brushed… because you wanted to look your best and make a favorable impression on your audience when presenting your case.

An object’s appearance has a huge impact on the thinking process of your audience.  The same goes for you and your presentation. How you and your materials look will either enhance your message, or it will be a distraction at best, and be a competing message at worst.

Dressing The Room To Impact Your Sales Presentation

When I was a Sales Engineer on the West Coast, I was working with our enterprise sales team making the case for our storage systems to a ‘really big chip manufacturer’. In one particular meeting, we had 7 members of our team on hand and we were expecting about the same number of decision-making managers to be present.

Before the client team showed up, our sales manager performed a little bit of ‘room dressing’. He assigned all of us seats, dispersing us around the conference table. I asked him why he was making this adjustment.

He replied, “I want this meeting to appear more collaborative. It won’t appear that way if we’re all concentrated in one section of the table and the client team is concentrated on the other side. I don’t want an ‘us against them’ mentality.”

Sure enough, the members of the client team started showing up, filling in the seats that were left open. The meeting had a more inclusive feel as it progressed, and everyone felt like we were all on the same side solving a mutual problem.  

After the meeting, some of the managers came up to us and said that the meeting was a productive one. One even said that he felt like we accomplished a lot that day.

Presidential Candidates Know The Impact Of Looking Patriotic

If you had the stamina to sit through all three presidential debates, you probably saw a subtle and interesting display of patriotic communication.

All candidates, since the 9/11 incident, have worn the flag pin prominently on their lapel as a display of their patriotism.  Some candidates have even gone so far as to wear the old IBM colors: the blue suit, white shirt and red tie.

But all politicians know that to achieve rapport with the American public, they have to show their constituents that they have America’s interest at heart. And that involves figuratively wrapping themselves in the American Flag.

The election cycle of 2016 is unique, as we have our first woman presidential candidate. Being unique amongst the “other” candidates, Hillary Clinton used that difference to display her patriotism in a subtle yet stylish way across all three debates.  In the first debate, she wore a red pantsuit. In the second, a blue pantsuit. And in the final one, she wore a white pantsuit.

Sorry guys, but the ladies have a lot more options when it comes to visual presentation style.

All we get is a tie!

Ideas On Using Your Appearance To Enhance Your Message

In sales, we have always been advised that how we look should be prominent, but not a distraction. Our appearance should attract attention but not hold it. The same applies when you are delivering a presentation.

Here are a couple of tips on using your appearance to support your message:

  1. Dress To Your Audience:  One of the tips we learned as an instructor was to “not distract from the message”. We are in the class to coach, and the class members are the focus of the program. So the attention always has to be on them, not on standing out with ostentatious clothing. If you are in sales or you are speaking to an audience, your appearance, your clothing, and your demeanor has to be in line with the expectations of your audience, but it shouldn’t be the focus of their attention.
  2. Use Appropriate Visual Aids: In our sales and speaking programs, we review the various forms of evidence you can use to support your presentation. This includes displays, demonstrations, and pictures. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. However, not all of those ‘thousand words’ will be appropriate for your message. When selecting graphics for your PowerPoint presentation, or physical props to perform demonstrations, select them strategically to support your message. There is nothing worse than having a visual aid taken out of context, delivered to the wrong group, and giving an unintended meaning. The news media is rife with examples of news anchors drawing figures on their big board only to do a second look and finding an embarrassing drawing prominently displayed.

As human beings, we take in a lot of our information visually, so our appearance and behavior plays a significant role in the message we deliver to our audience.

The next time you get up to speak, remember that your message is being conveyed not just by what you do, but also by how you look. Use the ideas above to take control of your appearance and your environment. You’ll communicate your main message with less effort and more impact.  

Over these past two sessions, we have reviewed the importance of the visual components in our communication efforts.

In the next email, we’ll talk more about the importance of the third way we communicate our message. Believe me when I tell you, this next component is crucial to what we say to people. If that sounds good to you, be sure to sign up for the next session below.

Until next time, speak well!

Click here to get the full version of this session and to sign up for the whole series.

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