As speakers we always want to come across as confident, knowledgeable, and well…powerful. But as we all know, too much of a good thing can be a problem. I think absolute power in speaking can be very intimidating. If we intimidate, we don’t influence people to do anything except fear us. On the other hand, too much warmth or niceness can project weakness. The audience may like us but not respect us enough to take action on our suggestions.
So what is just right? I think an appropriate balance of power and warmth can be our most successful combination. We want to be strong enough to command attention, but open enough to connect and inspire our audiences. Here are some ways you can find your power, and express it in a warm, connected way.
Breathe to release tension and to relax your voice. This is one place your stress or nerves could show up, so do all you can to relax into your voice. Open your chest, stand tall, open your mouth wide when you speak, and keep breathing.
Plant your feet in a wider, stronger stance. Train yourself to not cross your feet. Plant them firmly wherever you are in the room. Stand still much of the time, and move only from point A to point B, rather than pacing or wandering around. Use a powerful stance to feel strong from the inside out.
Keep your hands out in front, and use a few large gestures rather than lots of small ones. Get your elbows away from your waist when you gesture. Use a neutral position such as a relaxed steeple whenever you are not gesturing. But don’t gesture all the time; cultivate some powerful “quiet” or neutral body language as well.
Slow down your eye contact slightly. Be deliberate and calm as you send your energy outward to each member of your audience. If you are ever uncomfortable looking right into their eyes, be sure to look at their faces, specifically at their eyebrows. And don’t rush from one person to the next or you can look anxious.
Beef up your content by using solid structure. What is your message? Distill it into a crisp targeted message. What three questions or statements will capture and direct your attention to this message? What will be your memorable close and tie together with your message? Hone and refine these until you could say them in your sleep. Then create just a few slides or use flip charts for a “chalk talk” to drive that message home. Keep slides and visuals simple so that the focus remains on your message and the conversation around it.
Finding the right balance between power and warmth is not easy. You might need to experiment, get some feedback, read some blogs and books on speaking, or even hire a coach to help you figure it out. But when you think about all that is at stake; your great idea, the sale, the promotion, the respect of your audience, it seems well worth the price. In order to be a successful speaker you will need to find the right balance of warmth and power.
I would love to hear from you. How do you balance power and warmth in speaking?
Author Gail Zack Anderson, founder of Applause, Inc. is a Twin Cities-based consultant who provides coaching and workshops for effective presentations, facilitation skills for trainers and subject matter experts, and positive communication skills for everyone. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Web site: www.applauseinc.net