Definition: The telling of a lot of information in a manner that is void of personality, energy and heart.
Result: Numbing. Content overwhelm and impact underwhelm. Minimal retention.
It’s a condition that plagues many people. In fact, similar to a virus, you can carry it without even knowing, going about your life “affecting” people without ever realising. Then wondering why you haven’t been invited back to speak, your team don’t turn to you for answers and you miss out on that promotion.
That’s right. The condition is right under your nose yet you have never even considered you have it. Never. Even though people can see it, no one want’s to be “the one” that tells you.
I’m talking about the underwhelming, dull speaker. Urgh! It’s even hard to write about.
When I work with leaders and speakers, the first thing I assess is their “energetic” impact. We push the content to the side for a moment and look at the individual. What is it that they lead with? What do their staff, audience, colleagues get a whiff of when they stand up to speak or deliver a presentation?
Any hint of arrogance and people go running – in their minds that is. They switch off, they right you off. A sense of uncertainty seeds doubt … your audience easily become skeptical when really there should be no reason to be. Or a skerrick of nerves and they focus in on your red face and repetitive, awkward twitches and don’t really hear what you have to say.
That can all happen before you even open your mouth!
But then you do … and without these things addressed, your words project the embodied energy of arrogance, uncertainty, self doubt and nerves.
However, you can control your energy and shift out of these head controlled states and into a more open and receiving state. Firstly, it’s about tuning into and regulating your breathing. 5 long, controlled breaths do wonders for settling the nervous system and getting you out of fight or flight. Even if you don’t “think” you are nervous, it is always good to settle your breathing as it shifts you out of your head space (of disconnection) and brings you into your heart space (of connection). Already you and your audience start to feel better.
The next thing you can do is warm up your voice. Yes that’s right. YOU! You should warm up your voice. We are all so limited by our voice, as we have allowed it to settle into a comfort zone where expression has been squished and vitality lost. This is what causes a monotone or expressionless voice, and that repels an audience. Stretching our voice by using it beyond the octaves of regular conversation will teach it that it is safe to use its entire expression rather than it’s limited version. That in itself will add colour and vitality to your voice and will give your audience something to connect to you with.
Lastly, it’s a matter of being extremely present. Most people aren’t even aware of what is required to be truely present, those that are, usually can’t activate it on demand. A state of presence tells your audience that you are fully there with them, and in every word you say. The difference in your speaking is huge. I like to use a yoga technique to bring about a state of presence, and it uses Mountain Pose to get you there. Standing with your feet hip width distance apart, thigh muscles engaged, a slight pelvic tilt to the front, belly drawn in, shoulders back and down, chin level, eyes straight and draw energy through the crown of your head. Calm slow breaths. Scan your body from the feet up to the head by looking inwards and feeling inwards. Ahh… there. You have arrived. You are in your body, not in your head. You are in the room, not working figures for the report that is due later, you are with your audience not at home dealing with the kids. You are right there.
Now speak. When you speak from this place you are connected, engaged and energised. You are no longer caught up in your head ready to dump a pile of words on to your audience. You are in the words. There’s a big difference. Just try it and see. I promise you will feel great and your audience won’t sniff out that other stuff!
Sam Buckingham is a public speaking expert and speaker coach. She coaches individuals and teams in the art of powerful speaking and presenting. New website coming soon. She can be contacted at email@example.com
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