Essential Public Speaking Manners ~ Part 3
“To communicate effectively, one needs to be well versed in and thoroughly aware of what physical and emotional components best express the intended message.”
There are certain specific manners to practice and stay aware of on a public speaking platform or when taping. These manners are the backbone of the public speaker’s effectiveness. They are simple rules to help the speaker perform with confidence and trust. They apply to all public speaking situations.
Move things along
Everything during a public presentation or speech must possess a forward and revealing quality. Things can get flat and redundant very quickly during a speech or presentation. Moving things along is a matter of focus. It is the responsibility of the speaker to moves things along in a forward direction. Anything which does not serve this purpose should be considered carefully for elimination.
Speakers must always reveal, not hide. Any attempt to hide disrupts and ultimately breaks down communication. The risk in public speaking is in the revealing. Not everyone likes it. Public speaking is an open or transparent arena, so any attempt to hide anything keeps on growing exponentially. Freedom and spontaneity in public are functions of openness and clarity. These two elements will make your speeches or presentations seamless and elegant.
In addition to showing oneself, one must move the action of the speech or presentation forward. Put simply, you must show yourself physically, emotionally and mentally. Forward movement is what gives your performance velocity and overall rhythm.
Move energy forward
Always make sure your energy is flowing and free to operate in the direction of your choices. In other words, always provide more energy than you think you need with the following elements: standing, voice, gestures, eye contact, postures, pauses, walking, movement, staging and space. To energize is the most formidable power generating skill available. I call this type of dynamic “behavior modifying” dynamics, simply because they have the strength to affect the behavior of your audience instantly.
Choice and actions is where we discharge our energy. The true engine of intention is actually energy. The more clear the choice, the easier it becomes to commit our energy to it. Your ideas and their actions interact and feed each other. Put simply, an idea needs an action and an action without an idea is dysfunctional (that’s what an empty gesture is.) However, the wind of every action is the energy you feed it.
Poor or tentative energy distribution and thrust always announces poor results. It takes a bit of courage and risk to utilize more energy than you are used to. Stand taller, breathe deeper, walk more definitely, exude energy at every turn, and it will pay you back instantly.
Only the Speaker (you), is Active
In any given presentation, only the speaker is active. An audience is always the passive element. Therefore, it is essential to avoid the following forms of communication: apology, self-pity, journalizing, dramatizing, mocking, demeaning, commentating, victimizing, and over-explaining as visible means of communication. It usually spells disaster.
Because it requires courage to stand firmly and without flinching in front of an audience, the temptation to apologize is frequently present. We apologize subconsciously as a cultural and often polite manner or courtesy. The words “I’m sorry” if you want to pay attention is a phrase you hear dozens of times in any given day. In everyday communications, it’s an accepted form of breaking the ice and making ourselves visible. Apology is a mild social lubricant. However, if you are the leader of the group as a speaker always is, apology reflects lack of confidence and poorer skills.
Making an audience wrong is also an incorrect manner. The same applies to overt or covert anger. These are serious traps and very poor choices. Sometimes a speaker simply does not realize that his or her performance contains these forms of expression. He or she should become aware of the devastating effect it has on an audience. The only exceptions naturally are when the speaker who apologizes, explains, views himself as a victim or comments on his behavior as a way to illustrate, entertain or make a point. At that level, it is a deliberate choice, not a lack of skill or confidence.
Dominate & take control
A speaker always dominates, controls the scene, the stage and the audience. It represents rule #1 in public performance and your true “license to practice.” The right to speak is the right to allow yourself to take charge. I believe it is underestimated in many disciplines and relationships, such as a parent-child relationship.
Taking charge, owning yourself and the space in which your presentation or performance happens are the keys to greater freedom, deserved confidence and superior skills. Taking charge literally determines the outcome from the get-go. Metaphorically, it is your number one sculpting element.
One takes charge through skill, actions, technique, which is the execution of actions. In addition, what strengthens and establishes taking control is the ability to believe in what one is doing. Contrary to popular belief, taking charge is first a physical experience of taking possession of all the physical elements available: weight of your body, balance, breathing, movement, gestures, postures, space control, volumes, voice, etc. Taking charge is not a mental attitude. It becomes a mental attitude once all physical elements are in place. It can be asserted that your basic skill in all public speaking endeavors is the intention to take charge…even if you don’t quite know how to manage it well at first.
A speaker-audience relationship is a dynamic, which has to be understood and respected well to avoid problems. It is the speaker who is in control and commands attention, not the other way around. Audiences enjoy being “done to.” It’s where the fun is located for them.
Catering to an audience is a trap
Avoid “catering” to an audience or try to draw them in artificially. We sometimes and unknowingly betray a theatrical convention that was established for centuries when it comes to appearing in public. The audience is here to watch the event, and you are here to perform your act. Begging for approval or using people-pleasing cliché postures, indicating insincere confidence, faking signs of comfort and other false techniques can be devastating.
The public realm, as mentioned several times in previous articles, is never to be confused with any social, personal or professional realms. Public speaking is unique in that sense therefore, befriending an audience other than through skill, knowledge and understanding is a very dangerous game to play.
Here is the old saying: “if you cater to an audience, they will instinctively turn their backs on you.”
Be watchful of attitudes or moods that are cliché. You may wish for your speech or presentation to “feel good” and that’s legitimate, but focus on accomplishing that through genuine actions, not empty attitudes or gestures. An attitude or a mood is always the result of an action based on an intention. For instance, you trip entering a room and only after the fact do you feel embarrassed, surprised and a bit angry at yourself. Feelings are always consequences of our or others’ actions. An attitude or a mood is a second-rate choice unless we intended the attitude or mood as entertainment.
“If you play the mood, it will spell backward: DOOM.”
You are the expert, not the martyr
Remember that you are an expert, not a martyr. No one ever perishes from publicspeakingosis, though a major gaffe may seem mortifying at the time. Still, one way to avoid the fear of “dying on stage” is to remember: your credibility on a subject comes just as much from what you believe about yourself as it does what you accurately convey on a topic. Project confidence through your anchoring in physical elements such as gravity, breathing, balance, planting and radiating your energy forward and without flinching, etc.
Keep in mind, public speaking borrows from theatrical convention. A speaker willingly gets in front of an audience and delivers rehearsed or improvised sentences and actions. As such, it’s a voluntary act, created for a stage much like an actor internalizes a script and then replays it with conviction for dramatic effect. Your content might be critically serious, but the delivery is theatrical nonetheless. You are a “persona” playing to an audience, and you must become accountable at that level. There are no better anchors than the physical world for that purpose. Our professional commitment to anchor solidly tells the story of our credibility and sets the tone for the entire presentation, interview, act or speech.
Remember: you did not wake up on that stage unaware at the beginning or middle of your speech, you chose to be there. Therefore, remembering why you are committing to speak can greatly reduce some inevitable nervousness and subsequent mistakes.
What about mistakes
When a speaker makes a mistake, he or she mustn’t draw attention to it. Simply “move on.” When a speaker gets tense, shy, uncomfortable, anxious and so on, he or she must simply absorb it by: (1) Committing to his or her actions (2) Doing nothing. If we get tense or nervous, it’s not the audience’s fault. There are effective ways to remedy it quickly and without being noticed. Technical mistakes should always be on the speaker’s watch, not the audience; no need to involve an audience unnecessarily for elements beyond their control.