Okay, you know your stuff. But can you get people to like you and believe in what you say? Here are 5 surefire ways to make a positive impression on anyone.
What makes people remember you, feel good about interacting with you, and even change their behavior based on what you say? To boil all of that down: how do you make a really positive impression on anyone?
You might be an expert. Plenty of those around. You're a likable person. Okay, that's good. You're thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. All fine. But what can you do to be memorable?
That means having charisma, doesn't it? Discover how to perform at your best in any situation! Download my free e-book, "12 Easy Ways to Achieve Presence and Charisma."
In my business of speech coaching, it's my job to help professionals who already excel at what they do reach that next level, the one of memorability. Think of it this way: If you're in a line of people presenting at a national conference, are you going to be the one that's remembered?
Here are five performance-based approaches to create sparks whenever you walk on stage.
High Energy Makes You a More Exciting Speaker
When you interact with others, you're giving a performance. Sociologist Erving Goffman reminded us of that fact in his 1956 book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. And the more exalted your position in the hierarchy of your profession, the more you're on stage. If you're a CEO, you're always in the spotlight.
As an actor, I can vouch for the fact that any performance requires a different level of energy from the ordinary. We all love watching performances; and when we're anticipating one, we expect to be entertained. The tide should rise when a performance starts, and all of our boats should float higher because of it.
Lack of energy—vocally or generally—is a killer to many presentations that would otherwise be interesting and perhaps even fascinating. Here's another reason to be an energetic speaker: a high level of presentation energy forgives a multitude of weak platform skills. If you're energized, we're basically compelled to listen. So, compel us!
Are You Losing Your Level of Focus?
Here's a sobering story: A friend of mine, a highly successful author, tells me he's having trouble concentrating these days. Our frantic and fragmented existence, with its constant siren calls of every type of digital distraction, is destroying his ability to attend for the long term. Projects that require a sustained level of thought and scrutiny are becoming difficult for him.
How's your focus? If there's a human activity practically designed to pull us in at least three or four directions at the same time, it's high-stakes public speaking. There's all that information to get across . . . the feeling of vulnerability before a crowd . . . our tendency to stand outside ourselves and judge how we're doing . . . even technology which can be a major challenge!
But there's another side of the coin, isn't there? — The highly focused speaker is the ringmaster who marshals it all to our surprise and delight. Sure, we all know how challenging big-stakes presenting can be. But everybody else is dealing with all of those distractions too. Summon up what you need to be the speaker who STAYS FOCUSED. We'll love you.
Tapping Into the Beauty of Our Language
Here's an element of great speaking that can help propel you to the top of the heap: how well you use our magnificent language. English has never been a proud cook—it's always been happy to borrow and steal from any palate to create delicious and spicy meals.
Are you allowing your listeners to enjoy the feast? Especially powerful is the technique of speaking metaphorically: using comparisons, analogies, similes, metaphors, and unexpected connections (like the analogy of language as a meal, above). The idea is to link a concept you want your audience to grasp to something they're familiar with. Employee morale may be a rising tide; or a negative outlook may be an infection in the bloodstream of the company. Analogies give concepts immediacy and impact, and can save paragraphs of explanation.
American business loves cliches and trendy phrases. Whether there's a box you want to think outside of, or buckets you're tempted to place things in, it's time to pay attention instead to how vibrant speakers use language, and to create a little vibrancy of your own.
The 20% Solution to Avoid Being Narrow and Boring
Which brings me to the next approach, which is breaking out of the narrow field of your expertise. (This is related to a more original use of language that I just talked about). It's advice that I received from one of the teachers at the acting academy in London where I trained.
She said that 20% of our reading should be outside our field. You can easily grasp how important that advice is for an actor. But it's just as valuable for you—for it will make you a far more interesting speaker. Everybody in your field presents their data in a way that looks and sounds pretty much alike, don't they?
But there's a treasury of human experience out there waiting for you to mine it. You needn't toss off phrases in Latin or French that no one can understand. But why not allow Shakespeare, Mother Teresa, Frederick Douglass, Nelson Mandela, or someone else of equal stature to make a cameo in your speech? A thought or a quotation from the world's great thinkers can make you a speaker truly worth listening to—not least for how well you entertain your audience.
Commit Yourself Totally, and We'll Believe in You
Finally, a word about investment. Speaking should be a passionate activity when you do it in front of an audience. You have an enormous challenge at your hands: to corral and engage a crowd, and lead us to new understanding or action. Given everything else going on in our lives, making that happen in twenty minutes or an hour is an enormous undertaking.
If you don't commit yourself to it fully, it will never happen. Look at it another way: Why should we as audience members believe anything you say if you're not fully committed to it yourself? But here's the thing: You don't need us to be mind-readers for that to happen.
You do need to show it to us when you speak. So take another page from the actor's playbook, and get good at externalizing the passion you have for your topic. That means vocal expressiveness, body language, connecting with listeners through facial expressions and eye contact, commanding the stage by how you stand and move as a speaker—the full monty.
It's actually shocking how many professionals who are passionate about what they do don't show any of it when they present. If you need public speaking training, get it. But let us see and hear the value of your investment.
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Gary Genard is an actor, author, and expert in theater-based public speaking training. His company, Boston-based The Genard Method uses performance techniques to help business executives, leadership teams, and professionals embody presence and confidence to achieve true influence. In 2018 for the fifth consecutive year, Gary has been ranked by Global Gurus as one of the World's Top 30 Communication Professionals. He is the author of the books How to Give a Speech and Fearless Speaking.