Manage episode 374229562 series 2950797
“You are too loud”, “You are too high energy”. These were some survey comments following some training I was delivering for 60 managers for a client. You can imagine that the venue to hold ten tables of 6 participants each has to be quite large and spacious and that was the case. To project to an audience that size, in such a large venue, means you have to really lift yourself and pump out a lot of energy. The brief from the client was that many of these managers had lost their mojo over the course of Covid and the organisation needed lifting and these were the people who needed to provide that lift. They wanted the first session to be a motivational speech to inject some missing mojo back into those in the team who were lacking in that department.
With some of those comments coming back in the survey after the session it was obvious that for some of them I was too strong, too powerful and they found that threatening. Out of 60 how many do I think felt like that? I would say two or three and as a trainer I would just ignore that group and go for moving the mass of the people and getting them fired up. If I was the boss, I would look at replacing them with others to lead who would be more suitable for the task. I would be asking, “if they can’t take a one hour motivational speech, how can they deliver as leaders to their teams?”. Other comments were “powerful”, “motivating”, “enthusiastic”, etc., so you can see it hit the mark with the majority and as a trainer that is a good result. Training is one thing and presenting is another, but there are obvious overlaps, especially given that first session was a motivational talk.
Is there the danger that if we are too strong as a presenter, we will lose some of our audience, who don’t like all of that power close up and personal? Also, how much power is too much? Where is the line to determine we have gone too hard and too far? A talk is usually around 40 minutes and there are 15 minutes for questions, so the amount of presenting time is contained. Is it legitimate to go hard during those 40 minutes?
There are a number of factors to consider. Who is the audience and what is the point of this talk. The brief in my example was clear – restore their broken mojo and fire them up. To do that I have to be fired up, high energy, driving, powerful. If I want to lift them to 100%, then I have to go to 150%. In a typical business speech we won’t be asked to perform that role. The topics are usually more technical, we share experiences, explain how we got results and cover problem solving. We are there to stimulate the thinking of the audience and get them on the road to success. Do we need to go to 150%? Actually we might in very short bursts, if we need to make an important point, but we are talking nano seconds here not minutes.
There is also the question of the brand we want for ourselves personally and professionally. How do we want to be perceived in the market? If we are coming across in a very mild, low energy manner, that may work for our brand and for some industry audiences, particularly technical groups. If it was an audience of salespeople, it would be a total dud. I am a trainer and a salesperson and if I presented in a highly calm, no energy manner, it would be the death knell for my business. No one would hire me, because I wasn’t being congruent with what I am doing.
Generally speaking, our talks should be a mixture of energy outputs. There are certain words we want to highlight to lift their importance above the parapet and make sure they resonate with the audience. We inject a lot of energy into those words mimicking the highs of classical music. Classical music cannot just be crescendos or the audience becomes overwhelmed. There must be lulls too and that contrast is what make both work so well and so it is with public speaking. All soft or all hard are both bound to fail.
Most speakers deliver their content to the audience in a monotone voice, which is a great formula for putting people to sleep. We need to match our energy to our content. Professor Mehrabian discovered in his research in the 1960s, that if the way you are delivering the content doesn’t match the content, then that lack of congruency confuses the audience and they get distracted. In his day, that distraction would be evidenced with the audience concentrating on how we look and how our voice sounds, instead of on what we are saying. Today the audience would be lurching for their phones to escape the speaker and get on to the internet to access their social media feeds.
This means where there are points in the talk which call for more enthusiasm, we should raise our energy and voice and show more passion. If it requires a calm demeanour, then that is what we need to be presenting to the audience. We cannot have a Johnny One Note approach of one setting on the energy dial from start to finish. Our variation in energy and output is the key.