“If your presence doesn’t work, neither will your word.”
~ Gabrielle Bernstein quoting Yogi Bhajan in her book “The Universe Has Your Back”
When we speak, it is not just our words that carry the message forward, it is also our energy, vibes and the state of mind. As speakers who want to create greater impact, we need to align the message with our own presence, as well as the energy of the audience. Craig Valentine, a World Champion of Public Speaking and my mentor, emphasizes that importance of meeting our audience members where they are energetically and then moving them to where we want them to be. This applies to all important conversations, not just public speaking. Even in self-talk, what we say may contradict to how we feel – you can be your own audience. Here is how you can connect with your audience members and influence them on the energetic and emotional level:
Find the calm in the eye of the speaking storm. You may feel nervous and jittery before your presentation. You may find it hard to control the stream of thoughts coming through your mind. You may feel swept away by the whirlpool of events that are happening around you. It is important to find your center – your core. Find a quiet place where you can have a few minutes to yourself and do the following exercise that we often do in our yoga classes. Stand tall, take a deep breath and constrict every muscle in your body. Tighten your stomach, clench your feasts, squeeze everything inward and, as my yoga teacher likes to say, “Make a prune face.” Hold it for a few seconds then release as you exhale. Repeat a few times. I find this exercise helps me release stress and recharge.
Feel your audience’s vibes. Observe your audience, if possible, before your presentation. Are they energetic or low-key? Are they tired? Have they just come back from lunch? Do they appear formal or informal? Imagine yourself somewhere on the beach. You are about to enter the ocean. What does the ocean look like? Do you see calm, turquoise-blue waters? Do you feel the breeze chasing the waves to the shore? Do the waves look fun and playful or big and threatening? The ocean that you are about to enter represents the energy of your audience. You need to adjust your behavior accordingly, whether it is swaying back and forth on gentle waves, diving in, swimming along or staying close to the shore. Let your audience’s presence guide you when you begin so you can match their energetic level and build rapport. If your audience members feel tired and bored, jumping up and down on the stage will only annoy them. Transport them into a story instead, gradually capture their imagination and take it further.
You are the captain of the ship, and your audience are the passengers, so make it a memorable journey. Raise those sails and be ready to cruise along. Once you have connected with your audience and got their attention, make sure you have a toolbox of strategies to bring your audience where it needs to be, no matter if the waters are calm or rough. Compelling stories, reflective questions, clear points and take-aways, memory anchors, statements of benefits, and effective delivery techniques can all help you take your audience on a most amazing journey, both mentally and energetically, so they would want to sail with you again and again.