Have you ever found yourself listening to a great speaker and the next thing you know your mind begins to daydream?
Or perhaps your mind drifts to your "to do list", then you snap out of it because everyone else is laughing, but you missed that funny moment and now it's gone?
How can we as speakers make sure this does not happen to us? How can we make sure that the audience gets every juicy morsel of our meaningful message? How can we make sure that they feel connected to us and our message? How can we make a first impression that positions us as an expert before we even say the first word?
Bo Eason, one of the worlds greatest speaking coaches and former professional football player for the Houston Oilers once said, "There are no bad audiences. There are no bad listeners. There are only performers or speakers who have failed to connect."
We must connect and engage with our audience if we are going hold their attention and make an impact. After studying with some of the greatest mentors on this topic, I noticed 3 things continued to come up as key elements for outstanding speakers. I call them The 3 E's of Engagement. Let's explore these simple yet powerful ways to connect and captivate.
1. Expanded Posture: I watched a seasoned speaker deliver a well-crafted talk. His message was relevant, well organized supported by facts, and he was even funny. But, I found myself distracted by his poor posture which reminded me of a turtle popping its head out of its shell. I imagined he spent many hours before a computer and most likely had back pain. His hunched shoulders also made me wonder how confident he was. Was he truly a leader on this topic? Whether he was or not, I don't know. However, what is true is that for those brief moments I was NOT focused on his message. I was distracted by what his body language was communicating. If you wish to lead people toward a new point of view or to take a new action you must be seen as a leader. People who are seen as leaders (or alphas) have specific body language. They telegraph to others that they are confident and secure even before that have spoken a single word. Leaders and alphas take up more space vertically AND horizontally while moving in a calm manner. Here are some tips for alpha posture:
First, tilt your head up and back with the ear in line with the shoulder. Image being connected to the space above you and you are taller.
Then, roll your shoulders back and down. But, be careful not to puff up the chest too much because this can look as though you are overcompensating for confidence.
Finally, tilt the hips in a neutral position. Meaning, that the tailbone is not tilted too far out nor tucked under like a scared dog.
2. Engaging Eye Contact - Find someone in the audience to connect with eye to eye. Ideally, find eye contact with one person on the left side of the room, center, and the right side. Hold eye contact, but in a weird stalker way. We don't want to make them uncomfortable. Just look at them the way that you would look at a friend. In fact, you may find that you are naturally drawn to a friendly face. And an interesting thing happens when we do this. When we make eye contact personal, it becomes universal. Meaning, the entire room feels the connection too.
3. Emotional State Control- What are the feelings that you want your audience to feel during the beginning, middle, and end of your talk? Do you want them to feel suspenseful, compassionate, motivated, or inspired? If you haven't thought about this yet, now is the time. And here's the good news, the audience will feel whatever you feel. Here's the bad news, the audience will feel whatever you feel.
Recent studies in neuroscience have found that a part of our brain called mirror neurons telegraph from the speaker to the audience experiences and emotional states. Neuroscience has also revealed that mirror neurons fire when we watch someone doing something, these cells in our brain fire in the same way as if we were doing it ourselves.
Research also suggests that these neurons enable us to mirror other people’s feelings and connect emotionally by sending messages to the emotional or limbic part of the brain. When the audience feels these emotional states they feel connected and captivated by you and your message. The bottom line is, be intentional with your emotional states on stage so that the audience can feel those states as well.
Next Steps to Master These Skills
1. Review your talk and declare how you want your audience to feel at key points, especially the end. Pro tip: most great talks end on a crescendo. Meaning, that they end on with an inspirational or elevated feeling.
2. During those key points, imagine a scenario that will trigger you to feel those same feelings first. Remember that as you feel those emotions the audience will too. Then, practice, practice, practice.
3. Don't wait until you are on stage to practice these skills, because then it's too late and there is too much at risk. Use The 3 E's of Engagement next time you talk to someone at a workshop, a networking event, or even at the store. For example, next time you see a co-worker set an intention for the interaction:
1. expand posture
2. engage eye contact
3. emotional state control- you could choose happy, excited, or motivated
These techniques are subtle yet powerful. When mastered, you will communicate to your audience on multiple levels that you are an expert, you are a leader on this topic, and you have a personal and important message for them. And you will have the skills to be engaging, magnetic, and influential on command.
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