I Want What She Has – Charisma

UnknownCan you transform a person from a pedestrian, competent speaker into a compelling charismatic orator? The answer is yes you can.

For the past thirty years I have trained food professionals and media celebrities to find their voice, worked with keynote speakers to hone their presentations, adjudicated school debates, organised food and wine conferences with speaking and entertainment programs that left the audience wanting more and produced live cooking shows using the talent of Australia’s leading chefs and celebrities. As the author of Finding Your Voice – 10 Steps to Successful Public Speaking and an award winning speaker I can say, without false modesty – I know what it takes for a speaker to light up the auditorium.

Is it enough  to articulate well, present your facts logically and perform capably? With preparation and practice any speaker will become a competent speaker. An audience will appreciate these speakers’ efforts but will this adequate proficiency stay with them?

Don’t you want the audience to leave the building with your name on their lips and your message in their hearts?

This magic ingredient that lifts you from the mundane is your style, your brand, your charisma.

First lets look at how charisma (from the Greek meaning gift) is defined by others who have a vested interest in understanding this characteristic. Research from psychologists, talent scouts and even a high-powered charisma coach showed that there is no chutzpah fairy Godmother at our birth randomly waving her DNA wand – ‘here Norma Jean and Oprah a bucket-gene-full of compelling-appeal for you gals but none for you lot.’ They agreed that charisma can be a learned behaviour.

Common characteristics they identified were:

  • Emotional expressiveness – in other words allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
  • Empathy with others – socially sensitive
  • Exuding joy and warmth
  • Being present in the moment, being in the flow
  • Confidence
  • Stand firmly in your power
  • Mirroring others body language
  • Accepting your introversion or inadequacies
  • Voice – a measured tempo and lowering your intonation at the end of the sentence.

So the promise is –  if you practice standing chest out, shoulders back, arms wide you are seen as powerful. If you practice being in the moment, being socially aware and caring you will be flagging your empathy. If you accept your inadequacies and use visualisation techniques to boost your moral you will overcome and be centred and strong. If you risk telling others a secret or a weakness you will have emotionally connected with another. If you mirror others body movements then they will like and trust you. And if you train yourself to lower your voice, present in a measured way and put warmth in your voice from a smile on your dial you will have achieved the holy grail of panache gravitas – yes, yes, yes  – charisma.

To me the most important things in this worthy research is that when you have the courage to accept your shadow and light and  be vulnerable where all barriers are down, firm in your stance of bugger what the world is deciding about you – you are authentic. You have no need to fudge emotional and social expressiveness and sensitivity that becomes a taken. You will be in the present. You will naturally stand in your power and your voice takes on its own dimension of authority.

Consider comedian Billy Connolly who exudes high-octane charisma as he invites us into his fragile world. Even though his language would normally offend we don’t mind in fact see it as part of his charm as we rock and lock into his brand of humour. This man is no oil painting there is no glossy image, he looks as though he could do with a good hair and beard trim but we don’t care he gives us unfettered admission into his spirit. His transparent spirit of mischief and joy, making light of his foibles and life wounds connects  us at a deep level of consciousness.

Is it worth the risk of being true to yourself? You betcha. Just ask any speaker who has crossed the divide between platform and audience. ‘It is like holding the audience in the palm of your hand,’ said one speaker glorying in the joy of connection.

finding-your-voice1

 

*Want to know more?  Read my previous post  ‘The Path to Your Real Self’

* For Millennials  – substitute Russell Brand for Billy Connolly!

 

 

 

 

Come Spoon With Me

William_Archibald_Spooner_Vanity_Fair_1898-04-21
William Archibold Spooner

My Intuition, in a quiet moment, delivered the message that I should write a stunning blog or did I hear  blunning stog?

Spoonerisms? cue the chud, of course I rationalise, they have all the hallmarks of a fun blog or it should read ballmarks of a glun hog. After all how much  do I love to cheekily spoonerise when driving past a truck –  thats a trucking fig buck. Yes, I shout,  go help me sod this is going to be the pun fart of my blogging career to date.

The Rev. William Archibold Spooner, was born in 1844.  He was a not the most handsome of men. A very small albino man, with poor eyesight and a head too large for his body. Some wit might unkindly liken his looks as plain as a dobbers rog. But clever, oh so clever his mercurial brain raced ahead and his tongue could not keep up, especially when he was agitated and so began his art of switching words around.

When Spooner had to give the toast to the visiting Queen Victoria, he excitedly said ‘Three cheers for our queer old dean.’ His delightful gaffs spread over into his ecclesiastical duties, officiating at a wedding he was heard to say to the groom ‘son it is now kisstomary to cuss the bride.’

I bet his congregation flocked to his services in the hope they could add to the list of his slip ups – our shoving leopardsope in the hole and the list goes on.

Well tis time for me to shake a tower and chew the doors and so that’s it for my blunning stog – just swort and sheet. Hopefully

 

Mystical union between a speaker and audience

Punchy, quality content must be a taken for any speech of merit but it is in the delivery that the true mettle of the speech will be proven.

Speaking Clubs offer regular speaking practice  and this will develop lectern confidence.  If you  couple this with learned techniques, like the pause, rhythm and colour in the voice to emphasis your message you will become a speaker of some competence.

I think the difference between a competent speaker and a memorable one is the individual who creates, what can only be termed as, a mystical union between him/her self and the audience.

This charismatic difference is found in a speaker who is authentic, completely warts and all true to his/her self.  Sometimes it needs a bit of coaching to push past our ego that wants to be seen as the dynamo at the lectern. It takes courage to accept the fact that you aren’t perfect. But when you are  unafraid to step into your authentic signature style – the audience will recognise the integrity of your language, posture and intent. They will reward you  with their responsive energy and you the speaker will experience the joy of  holding an audience in the palm of your hand.

Pet peeves. Speakers who do not run to time, complacent speakers who think they can wing it or use  jargon – so elitist.  Speakers who shy away from using a microphone,  read from their notes with no eye contact, But my all time head banging irritation is the rising inflection. No ladies and gentlemen it is not nerves that makes the voice squeak  it is a habit which is a barrier to the effectiveness of your communication. While the audience is still hanging with the question mark tremor at the end of your sentence that’s all they hear. It’s a habit a silly habit, record and listen to it and make an effort to quit it.

Here ends today’s lesson folks!

 My book ‘Finding Your Voice – Ten steps to successful public speaking’ in 2005. encapsulated  four decades of my speaking, training/coaching, speaker management and evaluation passion. Promoted by the publisher Lothian  as the definitive self-help guide to public speaking.

Rehearsing a Speech for Success

Winston Churchill 1941
Winston Churchill 1941

Winston Churchill’s war time speeches inspired a nation to overcome what appeared to be insurmountable odds. But few knew that  Churchill suffered from a speech impediment, he had trouble with the letter ‘s’ which he pronounced as ‘sh.’ After consulting the finest specialist of the day he was advised that there was nothing clinically wrong with him and that all that was needed was ‘perseverance and practice.’  Which he did.  It is documented that he spent up to eight hours rehearsing a speech.

When I first started speaking in public I rehearsed endlessly.  It  became a repetitious mind numbing recitation. I thought of it as a necessary exercise to safeguard to myself from the effects of stage fright which froze my brain and tightened my breathing. I determined that if I mastered the rhythm and flow, the pace, the pause, the open stance of body image and practiced putting the oomph into the delivery then no matter what amount of flight or fight adrenalin my system pumped into my body, I too like Winston would over come and let people see the real lectern me.

It took years before I realised that beyond the first few fresh run-throughs my endless rehearsals were simply reinforcing my fears. What were my feelings and thoughts as I rehearsed over and over? My thorough and diligent practice focused on stage fright, being terrified at the lectern and the humiliation of being swamped by nerves.

When you rehearse with an underlying structure of fear that is what you will create at the lectern. You’re telling your subconscious that you expect to forget your words, to have a dry mouth, to shake, to have stomach churns, to increase your heart beat and tighten your breathing.  Grinding  your fears so resolutely into your psyche that you may even emotionally throw the ‘towel in’ halfway through an oration.

Stage fright is a constant for some people, it is for me. It’s a taken. You acknowledge it and allow it to be, knowing that the flight and fright syndrome will always power you. When you don’t fight it – it loses its fearful intensity.

My enlightened rule of thumb for rehearsing was stumbled upon by accident when I was driving to take part in yet another speech contest.  I was sick with nerves.  I stopped the car and  there on the side of the road I decided that if I could not have fun at the lectern then public speaking was not for me.   What is the saying – when you need it the teacher will appear? I remembered vaguely an article on the power of visualisation and the rest is history. Oh and the bonus was I started to win speech contests! Now this is what I teach others about rehearsing a speech –

Always set your intention, before you speak out loud your speech, to visualise yourself at a lectern, you are smiling, the audience is returning that joyful energy twofold, intent on your words, connecting with you at an authentic level. Run through the speech a few times until the words flow organically, replacing any trip-up words or phrases with your language that is comfortable to you.

On the day, just  before you give your speech take a quiet moment – acknowledge your fears tell them its okay, then visualise an image of yourself walking to the platform, you are looking relaxed, you see yourself at the lectern and smile. As you speak you have sense a knowing that you are truly connecting with your audience and they are loving it. Hear the applause, you are having feeling good, receiving the affirmation with delight.

Then go sock it to them.

The Pitfalls of Failing to Understand Your Audience

Two case studies from my conference organising days that show why it is vital to research your audience’s needs:

A speaker at the conference was a well-known celebrity. He is a very good speaker with valuable information to share. His signature style is very direct and to the point. Most audiences tolerate this style as part of his character and authority. Indeed some people find his style intoxicating.

He was addressing an audience of Consumer Relations Managers; people who spend their working days dealing with volatile customers and their complaints.  In his session he did not temper his manner of delivery, but was just as forthright and bombastic as normal. The audience found his style inflexible and arrogant. A large majority of the audience hated his presentation and documented this freely in their comments afterwards.

An eminent university professor presented a paper to an audience of industry managers in exactly the same manner that he would present to his students. The audience, professionals in their field, were looking for a different level of information and were distinctly uncomfortable with the speaker’s patronising manner. Instead of the presentation being a rewarding experi­ence for them it had the opposite effect. On the exit survey they documented another thumbs down result.But if the outspoken celebrity and professor had bothered to consider their audience then they could have enriched their connection with the audience.

What’s Not to Worship?

We moved from the white-hot of midday sun into the cool dimness of the Basilica of San Frediano in Lucca.  Our Italian tour guide was a young woman, who knew far too much history for her own good and wanted desperately to share it with the world.   Her voice now barely a whisper detailed the faded frescos and the 12 century marble baptismal font as we quietly wound our way through the side chapels.

She waited patiently in the side chapel of St. Zita until all the group were present.  There was renewed determination as she spoke of the artifacts and paintings.  We had been walking and ingesting Lucca for over three hours. The majority of were simply pleased to sit, pushing shoes off our sore feet as we sought the coolness of the marble floor.  Our guide’s history lesson was overwhelming, ticking off the centuries  while our thoughts fantasized on  a coffee and shopping break.  She sensed she had lost us but then she played her Saint Zita trump card. Deliberately she stepped away from the front of the altar, with a cliché gesture of game show host she indicated the brightly lit glass sarcophagus behind her.   Where the rest of the church was dim illuminated only by rose-red pools of light or iron stand banks of flickering candles, the glass case was rudely lit, neon bright like a cheap side show.  There  on a bed of brocade was the mummified remains of an ancient, once, woman, now only a  leather black corpse dressed in white with a circlet of dusty plastic flowers in her thin wispy red hair. The guide  had our attention. And with that my weakened enthusiasm for absorbing yet another church or monument was dealt a fatal blow.

IMGP1605The only iconic place of worship –  that I have experienced –  that I found uplifting  and gave a sense of spiritual freedom was Gaudi’s Cathedral Sagrada Familia.  Is it because of Gaudi’s  imaginative architecture compared to predictable medieval or gothic  buttressed church naves? Those darkened hallows have a heaviness that dampens my spirits whereas  Gaudi’s cathedral is a lightness of towering space that triggers the imagination to explore it with the spiritual innocence of a  child. May be Gaudi paid heed to the biblical quote  ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’

I love history but sleuthing around a church attempting to retain  a potted knowledge of patrons, saints and bishops while viewing the stained glass windows, a hand-carved lectern from a single oak tree, an alabaster madonna and child is not for me and irrefutably not some horror movie mummified relic in a glass case.

To me the natural elements of earth, sea and sky provide my altar for a conversation with a higher source. What about you?

Friday Tips for Speakers – Praise of the Pause

The Pause, a  second or two without speaking, is one of the most powerful elements you can use in speech delivery.

The Pause is to public speaking as a verbal underline or CAPS’ are to writing. Use it to emphasise your point or to add drama to your words.

The Pause will quiet a noisy audience.  Remember the school teacher who could quell a noisy class with a long cool look at the students. An over enthusiastic question time can rattle a speaker and it can get uncomfortable at the podium. Maintain quality eye contact while employing an extended pause and you will be able to take back control.  Bonus of the mute seconds is that it gives you time to think of a diplomatic or courteous answer.

The Pause is an effective tool when you are presenting a workshop. In your introduction to the workshop explain that when you need to recapture the group’s attention, following an interactive session, you will stop talking and raise your arm.  They in turn should stop speaking and raise their arm until the whole room becomes quiet. Works like magic.

At the lectern, just before you speak, Pause, make eye contact and smile. Try it – you will find the audience will reward you with a boost of pure welcoming energy.