Gina Barnett, Author, Play the Part: Master Body Signals to Connect and Communicate for Business Success
Why is it some people seem to effortlessly persuade and move an audience, while others find it almost impossible? What defines the mystery of connection? That mystery has been a subject of fascination for me for most of my life… and it remains a mystery still. And yet, by spending many years trying to crack the code of connection I’ve observed several things that are consistent.
We express ourselves in countless ways all day long, but when its time to communicate something that requires action, that requests our audience become engaged, then how we do so demands intentional expression.
Intentional expression comprises five key components.
First off, have a crystal clear objective. We do not always know what we want. Often life is like staring into an open fridge late a night, we’re hungry but we’re not sure for what. But for a communication to succeed, for an audience to become engaged you need to know what you want. Do you want to inform or inspire, to update or engage, to lecture or lead? The objective may change in the course of the conversation, but if you enter having a very clear goal for exchange – even if the goal is to engender an open-ended chat – your style of communicating will be commensurate with that goal. Your audience will get a sense of you before you even speak. The tone will be set by a style aligned with a clear objective.
Focus – OUT. Communicators who are able to somehow get beyond “self” consciousness, and become truly “other” conscious are able to take in the audience in an immediate and present way. They can sense an audience moment by changing moment. They don’t ignore or block out the information coming their way, they absorb it, navigate it and incorporate it. Connection happens because the audience doesn’t feel blocked out, but allowed in. Exchange happens. Connection ensues. Engagement grows.
Flow – communication demands give and take, and by focusing out, and allowing the moment-to-moment exchange between speaker and audience to effortlessly flow back and forth something mysterious begins to occur. The singularity of a speaker alone standing before a group of passive recipients vanishes. As if by magic it becomes an exchange, a conversation – even if one party is silent. The speaker, not trapped by fear, but fully open to the myriad of micro signals zooming by, allows those signals to enter his or her awareness. Subtle shifts in pace, vocal tone, facial expression, gesture manifest the give and take between the speaker and audience happening in the “now.” For example, if the audience laughs, the speaker needs to allow the laugh to happen, by neither stepping on it and carrying on as if it didn’t happen, nor waiting for it to completely die out.
Be open. We live in the age of “experts.” Acquired expertise in a given field is a terrific thing.
(For sure, I want an engineering genius to design my next car, not a lawyer. Although I’ll certainly want a great lawyer for my case against the car company that knew about their faulty steering system.) But when it comes to the exchange of ideas, to communicate – all the expertise in the world will not tell you what your audience is thinking, how they will respond, or what will come out of their mouths next. We all live on the edge of time and no one is an expert on the future. If you allow yourself to admit you know nothing of what is to come, to live in that vulnerable truth, to embrace it rather than push it away, all of you – not merely the expert – will show up. The “smarty pants”will stand besides the vulnerable, mortal being that you truly are and the audience will feel and respect that truth. They will open to you as you’ve opened to yourself. Is that being vulnerable? You bet it is. But, like it or not, you are.
Be brave. To do all that I describe above is quite challenging and risky. It is not easy to go before an audience, to be open, to allow the energy to flow unhindered back and forth, to let go of preconceived notions of how things will go and ride the wave of unpredictability. That takes courage and – even more critical for formal presentations – massive amounts of preparation and rehearsal. Off the cuff remarks cannot be rehearsed, but still asks of us all of the above. For prepared remarks, why should you rehearse? Why do professional athletes train, professional singers do scales, surgeons do mental run-throughs? For the obvious reason, they need to be in shape to manage the grueling demands that those professions place on their minds and bodies. For any exchange to succeed, for your ideas and thoughts to fully enter the brains of your audience members, your communication needs to connect.
There are no experts when it comes to communication. There are merely those who have a strong sense of what they wish to communicate, who listen deeply to the information coming from outside themselves, do not block the flow of energy in the given moment, are vulnerable and very brave, indeed.
[Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]
About the Author
Gina Barnett is the founder of Barnett International, Inc., an executive communications consulting firm. She coaches C-suite executives on how to present to stakeholders, heads of sales on how to inspire their teams, scientists to express complex ideas to the general public. She has worked internationally with individuals from over thirty countries. Coaching from Russia to Thailand to Spain has served to deepen her belief that communication excellence in today’s global economy is essential for success. www.PlayThePartBook.com