I visited a call center once that was operated by the airline I was working for at the time. I noticed that each of the workstations had a mirror mounted near the telephone. As each call center representative prepared to answer an incoming call, they would look briefly into the mirror and smile.
Why do you suppose they did that? That’s right — because it influenced how they felt as they answered the phone and that translated into a more friendly tone for the customer listening on the other end. Their body language was able to trick their own brains. As a result, they were able to offer a better experience for their customers.
We all know that our feelings can influence our body language, but we don’t always recognize that the opposite is equally true – our body language can influences how we feel.
Implications for Public Speaking
So why is this important for a presenter or speaker to know? This is why: If you stand confidently when making a presentation or speech, you will begin to feel more confident. And as your confidence rises, so will your credibility in the eyes of your audience. They audience will react positively to your confidence and that will cause you to become even more energized and even more confident. The effect will begin to snowball.
Make Body Language a Habit
This is the strategy behind social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s “fake it until you make it until you become it.” Or, yet another way we can look at this idea is as the famous Greek philosopher and teacher Aristotle said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” I’m sure Aristotle would agree that confident speaking also can become a habit.
By standing straight, planting our feet shoulders width apart, making appropriate eye contact, smiling, and getting our hands free and our shoulders relaxed so that we can gesture naturally, we can project an air of confidence on the outside and begin to feel more confident on the inside.
Think of it as a Jedi mind trick — on yourself! So, take a look in the mirror and smile — you got this! And may the Force be with you!
“The most precious things in speech are the pauses.” – Sir Ralph Richardson
Sometimes, saying nothing at all can speak volumes. A well-timed pause can be one of the most important rhetorical devices in a speaker’s arsenal. So, when should you pause?
Here are two great times to use the power of the pause:
(1) After asking a question. Give the audience times to ponder your questions in their own minds. This will help draw them into what you’re talking about. Imagine hearing a speaker ask: “What are you doing to ensure your family has a safe and secure future?” If the speaker pauses, members of the audiences will likely think about the question and then be curious to hear what the speaker has to say next.
(2) When the audience is reacting. If the audience is applauding, laughing or otherwise reacting to your words, pause for a moment. Don’t walk on your adulation. Savor the moment! Don’t start talking until the audience has finished reacting. If they are reacting, they are engaged. Don’t cut their engagement short. If you do start speaking, the audience won’t be able to clearly hear what you’re going to say next and you’ll lose the opportunity to fully engage them. If you pause, it allows those who are applauding or laughing to fully engage in the moment. A pause also will allow members of the audience who may not be applauding or laughing to hear those who are reacting and that just might help draw them into the speech.
When it’s done correctly, a pause can move an audience in a unique way. Give it a try and see how the sounds of silence can work for you.
Few of us are ever going to find ourselves at a podium ready to deliver a major speech to thousands of people. But all of us communicate every day in countless ways. How well we communicate in everyday situations makes a big difference in how successful we are in our professional and personal lives. Studies show that communication is the No. 1 business skill for business leaders.
If you think about it, life is a series of presentations. You are always presenting yourself. Most of your presentations are unscripted and most of them are intended to be persuasive. You want to make a favorable impression and you want your audience to see things your way. Making a good impression starts with the basics — things like shaking hands, introducing yourself, and exchanging business cards. The art of persuasion is often best done in the form of storytelling, perhaps the most powerful way to communicate.
When done correctly, everyday business interactions can have a powerful effect. But few people have ever been taught how to master these simple but powerful business basics. And most people underestimate the importance of these interactions and settle for “good enough.” As a result, their names are quickly forgotten, their business cards get tossed away, and their poorly constructed stories are ignored.
However, mastering ordinary business situations can have extraordinary results on your career. This blog, and the workshops and personal coaching sessions we offer are designed to help you gain the confidence to speak up and discover the skills to stand out in all situations. Our hope is to create a supportive community here where we can learn from each other and cheer each other on. We’ll offer easy-to-remember tips, tricks, and techniques that you can apply right away. In return, we want to hear your comments, suggestions, and personal experiences. Please join us by signing up for our email list. This just might be a small start to something big!