Here is Number Three of my “Seven in Eleven”–seven of my favorite “ah-hah” moments when my participants “get” some insight or gem of wisdom. #1 was “I can do without PowerPoint,” and #2 was “I never knew about the black slide!”
Ah-hah #3: “Energy, energy, energy.”
A basic truism of public speaking is this: It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Sadly, the most interesting and important information in the world will be lost on an audience if it’s delivered in a deadly dull, boring, apathetic manner. But an interesting speaker, one who is engaging and compelling and mesmerizing, makes audiences hang on his or her every word. This is a speaker’s single most important objective to strive for – to convey a sense of energy and passion around his or her subject. You must project energy and enthusiasm in front of an audience.
But you’re just not demonstrative by nature, you say? I hear that lament a lot in my training business. Many participants feel uncomfortable — unnatural — when they have to turn on extra energy. My challenge is, first, to show them that just because it feels unnatural doesn’t mean it looks that way, and second, to help them see that dynamism is the key to being a compelling speaker, one whom audiences want to listen to.
Through compelling exercises and the magic of videotaping, I’ve witnessed countless transformations. It becomes evident that energy makes the speaker’s presentation more fun, more humorous, more engaging. Audiences pay better attention, enjoy themselves more and learn more. And, interestingly, because speakers are burning up nervous energy, they usually feel less anxious during their talk. That’s because nervous energy is really the “fight or flight” chemical adrenaline. It needs to be released, otherwise it’s just going to wreak havoc on your body. Projecting purposeful energy is the method of that release.
And, finally, a potent ah-hah is that you don’t look as “over the top” as you might feel. Dale Carnegie, who wrote the book – literally – on public speaking, said it almost 50 years ago: “In order [for a speaker] to appear natural, he has to use much more energy in talking to forty people than he does in talking to one, just as a statue on top of a building has to be of heroic size in order to make it appear of lifelike proportions to an observer on the ground.”
How do you project this energy? You use expressive vocals and purposeful gestures and movement. Vary your vocals. Stride across the front of the room. Use big, descriptive gestures. This is the secret to standing out when you stand up. Projecting all that energy will free you from the grip of anxiety. And imbue you with credibility. And make you interesting.
It doesn’t matter whether you think it’s in your nature or not. If you want to be interesting and hold your audience’s attention, you’ve got to push your energy beyond your everyday level. It’s a powerful ah-hah moment when speakers get that!