Much of the advice on public speaking and leadership communication advocates putting your audience first. And that makes perfect sense – but only if you’ve got yourself right first!
As a leader (or an aspiring one), have you ever described yourself as passionate? Fired up? Or even champing at the bit? Woooah! Hold on just a sec… When we have fire in our belly there’s a danger of rushing in without the skill necessary to execute. We can’t shine authentically in today’s media driven, content hungry world when thrust into the limelight inadequately prepared. Knowing how to present ourselves and our subject in an authentic way will enable us to connect with our audience (or the people who work for us) – rather than falling flat and putting them off.
Have you ever presented to an audience and afterwards felt as if the real you had got ‘lost in translation’? The next day you see yourself tagged in an unflattering photo that would never have made your LinkedIn profile or Instagram account… it certainly doesn’t reflect how you felt when you did your last mirror check.
How many of us have watched ourselves back on video? Again, we often don’t look or sound the way we imagine, and this can really knock our confidence.
We need to transition from ‘have a go heroes’ to being ‘ourselves – more – with skill’… and this is something we can start to work on today. Becoming confident and unself-conscious enough to focus on the needs of our people will have an impact on our leadership profile and our organisation.
So here are five helpful hints to help start you on your journey.
Know your subject:
There’s some often cited (and wrongly interpreted) data that only 7% of our impact comes from what we actually say, from our ‘content’. But that doesn’t mean your content isn’t important – quite the reverse. It has to be 100%. To speak from a position of authority we need to know what’s we’re talking about. We should never fear a Q&A session. We should be able to answer most of the questions we face or at least know whether they’re actually valid. The real significance of the 7% is that the other 93% – how we look and sound – has to be red hot too! Otherwise our fabulous content won’t land with the impact it deserves.
Empathy is a power tool:
One of the power tools for engagement is putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes.
Research how people feel and show them you’re aware of this. When we do this people buy into us. Insights are discovered.
Connection is made because we ‘get’ other people. When we speak the same language we get understanding.
We need to research our audience in order to get an accurate assessment of their needs and what can realistically be achieved in our time with them.
Work out the TFD: how we want them to Think based on how they’re Feeling, and consequently what we can expect them to go away and Do as a result of having listened to us. If we weave this understanding into our preparation, and into what we say, the audience will feel understood and listened to – even if they’re not talking!
Being ruthlessly realistic in our assessment of where the audience is in their process of persuasion to us and our argument will help us to gear things accordingly. Getting to ‘Yes’ is often unrealistic, and can be a dangerous target to shoot for. Settle for giving food for thought maybe.
Perfect practice makes perfect:
Yes, don’t wing it. Use a phone and film yourself. It’s here we pick up on distracting mannerisms such as rocking or playing with our hands. Or those ‘Ums’ and ‘Errrs’ we use to buy time.
There are techniques to overcome these things – like using an energized pause to create a certain impression or to give yourself catch-up time – which are simple when you know them. So it’s important to practise; but make sure you’re practising in the right way! Otherwise you could just end up reinforcing bad habits.
Make Vulnerability your strength:
Yes … vulnerability can be a strength, BUT only if it’s expressed confidently; otherwise it will be read as a weakness.
Sharing from your personal experience reveals that we are all on a journey. Stories stick.
Your story is something you own, it’s your truth and that in itself helps you become more authentic. It allows the audience to relate to you – and to themselves, in a more connected way. When you are you, you touch something in others – and they will buy you!
Stories of mistakes that you overcame, challenges you faced and people you admired will all build a picture of trust, empathy (yep), and authenticity that inspires.
Articulating your leadership, in the moment, so that it is experienced as you intend is possible. In fact, helping leaders to be confident and unself-conscious enough to focus on the needs of other people is something we specialize in at Personal Presentation. We have helped countless leaders transform the way in which their audience experiences their leadership. The audience (their people) then began to take an active and personal responsibility for the organisation.
Our coaching team at Personal Presentation are all from a professional performing background and we know all about making the right impact and building a positive relationship with an audience, fast.
Investing time into how you communicate really will help you convey your message and get you the advocates, followers and influence your hard work deserves.