Manage episode 371506852 series 2950797
This last week I saw two speakers who were presenting, but both managed to do so with absolutely no presence. They could not command the room and they were both hard to hear. One was hosting an event with experts assembled, there to gain more knowledge. The other was leading the opening of a prestigious event to a very large audience in a big ballroom. I don’t think there was any great self-awareness going on with either speaker. They had divorced what they were doing, from how they were being perceived doing it. When we stand up to present, we are putting our personal and professional brands on the line in public and we have to be aware of that.
The speaker hosting the expert event spoke very softly and was hard to hear, even in that relatively small room. There was no energy behind the words, no pacing, no highlights, all lulls and no crescendos. Some female speakers don’t change gears enough when they have to speak in public and don’t project with enough vocal strength. They often have soft voices to begin with, but they need to switch gears and ramp up the volume and power. Speaking with staff or with friends allows for a soft voice, because of the situation and the proximity involved. Speaking to a group is an entirely different animal and has to be approached with a professional attitude and to realise this is a speaking spot which requires a different mindset.
Our speaker didn’t employ eye contact with her audience and this was a big missed opportunity. In such a smallish room, our eye contact can be very powerful and can personalise the talk so much more. It has the effect of drawing the audience in toward the speaker and creating the feeling that the presenter is talking directly to each of them. This engagement level is very high and makes the message accessible to the audience and that is what we want isn’t it – to get our message through.
Gestures were also missing. She was using a microphone and that tied up one of her hands. Also the audio set up hadn’t been checked prior to the event. I know that, because the speaker box wasn’t amplifying her voice very much at all. A non-working microphone with a softly spoken person is a problematic combination. If she had used gestures, even with only employing one hand, it would have driven home her points much more powerfully. Her body language was also non-existent, so there was no feeling of attraction, charisma, or presence when she was presenting. Sadly, we were just left with a soft voice, which was hard to hear.
The gentleman tasked with leading the toast at the large event was struggling with the roar of the confab down the back, as he tried to get everyone’s attention and get proceedings underway. Clearly, he had no idea of how to tame an unruly gathering and just stood on stage looking lost. This is extremely damaging to your personal brand, because it reveals you are clueless as a leader. Standing up on stage looking lost isn’t a great brand builder either. I had met him previously and he is a well-educated, capable, intelligent guy, but he revealed he was totally clueless on what to do with his responsibility for that evening. He is rather short as well, so he cannot use his frame to impose order on the crowd and get them to shut up and listen to him. There is a reason a lot of leaders are often very tall. Unfortunately, I am not in that group either.
Regardless of our size though, we all have the opportunity to use our voice to still the madness. His choice of voice volume was for a close proximity, one-on-one conversation situation, as opposed to addressing the masses. What he should have done was to speak very, very loudly to command to audience to pay attention. Usually one outburst is never enough, because the alcohol is flowing and so is the conversation. People just pay no attention whatsoever to the proceedings and that in turn, means they pay no attention to the speaker. Maybe others can suffer that indignity, but we cannot have that occur when it is our turn.
He needed to keep repeating “Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention” in a loud voice, until even the most wayward conformed to shut up and listen to what was going on. In my experience, it usually takes three or four renditions of this very loud opening to get people to quieten down.
His remarks when he finally got the room down to a low white noise background hum, were not well prepared and were not interesting. He should have considered that his audience had many representatives assembled and used that to get people excited about the evening. He invited the different groups representatives to come up on stage, but then he did nothing with them, so their presence was irrelevant. He could have introduced each representative and then easily encouraged all the members of that organisation to give them a big cheer. This sets up a competitive spirit which makes the occasion more fun and interesting. He could have made some comments about the significance of the gathering and pump up the activity’s importance. None of that happened and quite frankly, I cannot remember anything about what he said, because it was not gripping. Remember, we are competing with the food and drinks and so we have to make it worthwhile for the audience to give us their time.
His talk had no presence and he and his talk have already disappeared into the mists of time and both are already totally forgotten by everyone who was there. He could have used this occasion as a platform for his personal and professional brands, if he knew what he was doing. Clearly, he didn’t know what he was doing and the opportunity was completely missed. When it is our turn, we need to seize the moment and plan the talk so that it is a triumph and not a fizzer.