#76 Showtime: How the 93% Principle can save your reputation!
I want to go on record right from the get-go!
Poor delivery of your message will slap you in the professional face AND can possibly derail your career!
Over the years I’ve had the great honor of working with numerous high-performing managers, business owners, and leaders who literally put themselves in danger of losing their credibility, at the very least, because of their poor platform presence.
Here are some comments I’ve heard along the way that helps to explain what I mean.
… “He doesn’t inspire confidence when he speaks to board members, employees, or senior executives.”
… “She’s meek and lacks presence, especially in meetings.”
… “He graduated high up in his MBA Programme but when he gives presentations he’s stiff, dull, boring, and really confusing.”
Translation? You can have the most respected degree in the world, BUT if you cannot communicate your ideas effectively THEN it doesn’t matter!
You can lose your credibility… or worse! You can come in as a bridesmaid in a competitive pitch, or be passed over for that promotion… all because of that inability to stand and deliver.
I was asked several weeks ago, “Who is your podcast aimed at?” My response was quick and assured,
My response was quick and assured, “Anyone with a dream or an ambition of standing in front of an audience and nailing it! Could be business students, a manager, a CEO or an aspiring leader… could even be a coach, a consultant or a marketer.”
Here’s what I know. It’s not your choice of a career that determines whether or not you need to have what I’m talking about in this podcast. The truth is, all careers have a requirement to talk about the business in some way.
It could be in a large environment where the audience is hundreds or possibly even thousands or in an office with one or two others… let me tell you what very few will tell you… you are being judged by how well you speak in public and how persuasively you deliver your message.
The purpose of The EPIC Thought of the Day Podcast… as well as every book and online coaching program in the Foundations of Platform Mastery Programme… is to open your awareness to the knowledge, skills, attitude and resource you need to protect and enhance your personal and professional brand. To build your authority with the power of platform presence.
So, if you’ve just started listening to our podcast, let me bring you up to speed.
We have been exploring what it takes to become a Platform Master, someone who finds themselves in front of an audience and they are the ones doing most of the talking. As a result of several decades of experience, I’ve been able to identify eight specific elements that when executed together will result in a masterful performance.
I’ve come to describe these eight elements as The Eight Constant Factors of Platform Presence that leads to Platform Mastery. They are Engage, Persuade, Impact, and Compel, with Passion, Purpose, Posture and Projection.
Last week, in Episode #75, we gave a very brief overview of the first six constant factors, so it would be good to go back and catch that if you are a new follower. After the overview, we began a discussion centered around Posture, the seventh constant factor, and we talked about it from three perspectives: Vulnerability, Mindset, and Physicality.
Well, now, we are opening a series of episodes on the third perspective of Physicality for one simple reason, Physicality is the shop window. It’s where everything is showcased.
Do you remember those comments…. “He doesn’t inspire confidence when he speaks to board members, employees, or senior executives.”…“She’s meek and lacks presence, especially in meetings.”… “He graduated high up in his MBA Programme but when he gives presentations he’s stiff, dull, boring, and really confusing.”?
It all boils down to this, you can have a brilliant message, undeniably valuable, and still be completely undermined by poor delivery.
I’ve seen this happen. I’ve watched competent, smart people, who would normally be poised, articulate and highly effective, come unglued and exhibit ‘out-of-the-character’ physical behaviors, actions or distracting mannerisms.
I remember such an occasion with a client, a leading CEO of one of NZ’s largest companies. He had to address a room full of journalists and other media. It was a particularly challenging time as the business was undergoing several change initiatives at one time.
This was the first time I had worked with him, being referred by his PR company. So, we met and started to get to know each other better.
We started shaping his thoughts into a message, answering the questions we knew was coming before they could be asked, and even going where we knew the audience didn’t think we would go.
I was coaching and directing him in a certain delivery style, using many of the tools I’m going to share with you in this Physicality series. Now, I am the first to acknowledge, he knew his subject. Knew it well. But that’s where his authority ended.
He insisted on his PA being with us, of which I had no problem with. I’d done this often and I know how valuable a PA is to the end result. Sadly, this particular PA, who was quick to inform me that she’d been writing speeches for over 20 years and she knew him better than anyone else, went against almost everything I was trying to coach.
He became confused and flustered and when we eventually arrived on the day of delivery, he was talking a good show but we both knew he wasn’t as confident as he was sounding.
When the lights were all focused on him when there was nowhere to hide… something happened as he stood in front of that room of 200. His mind froze. He turned and talked to the screen, reading in a monotone voice and completely lost the plot.
He knew it… I knew it… his PA knew it… his five GM’s who were sitting in the audience knew it… the audience knew it. Borrowing from that line in Top Gun, ‘It was a crash and burn. It was not pretty.’
I am glad to say that the next time we worked together, he listened to me and he was able to recover some of his credibility and reputation. Everyone knew he was smart. They all knew he was a wonderful CEO… but his inability to have a posture of authority, to have strong physicality, was eroding both his confidence and his personal brand.
Over the past 27 years of working with, coaching, unlocking, inspiring and equipping business professionals to stand in front of an audience and deliver their message, I’ve noted at least 20 common delivery traits that undermine a speaker, including:
- Clenching or wringing your hands
- Pacing back and forth, constantly moving
- Keeping your hands in pockets
- Jingling change or keys
- Twisting ring or rings
- Gripping the lectern
- Repeatedly licking lips
- Adjusting your hair or clothing
- Fidgeting with a pen
- Bobbing head, up and down, swiveling back and forth
- Placing your arms behind your back
- Repeatedly touching the face as a result of nervousness
Any one of these ‘habits’ can distract the audience from your message and jeopardize your credibility.
So, today, we will talk about three important factors in Physicality: (1) Communication Noise, (2) How to Use Movement and (3) What to do with your hands when you are speaking.
We have prepared a PDF download titled Delivery Skills for Platform Mastery and you will find it at www.epicpresenting.com/deliveryskills.
It is common knowledge that a presentation has three distinct elements: words, vocal image, and physical delivery. This model is based on the work of Albert Mehrabian (born 1939 and is currently Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA.)
Mehrabian has become known best by his publications on the relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages and he has been quoted in almost every human communication seminar in the world…no exaggeration. I have personally quoted him in over 1000 workshops in the past 20 years.
Here’s a snapshot of his findings:
7% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in the words that are spoken.
38% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is paralinguistic (the way that the words are said).
55% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in facial expression.
One of the core conclusions of Mehrabian’s findings is that non-verbal elements are particularly important for communicating feelings and attitude… especially when they are incongruent.
It’s this incongruence that creates a problem for the platform speaker. Incongruence between what you say and how it is being said is what creates a communication noise and this is the silent killer of platform presence.
So, let’s unpack what we mean when we say, communication noise.
In communication studies and information theory, noise refers to anything that interferes with the communication process between a speaker and an audience.
Five Kinds of Noise
Physical noise is external to the presenter and audience. It includes things outside the presentation room and ranges from buzzing phones to people talking to footsteps in the hallway, others talking in the background, background music, a startling noise and acknowledging someone outside of the conversation, to machinery doing road works…just to name a few.
Psychological noise is mental interference that hinders, or creates a block of some kind to an audience listening to the presenter. Psychological noise results from preconceived notions the audience may bring with them, such as stereotypes, reputations, biases, and assumptions. When they bring these preconceptions in with them they can easily become blinded to the original message.
Physiological noise is an internal noise that is made up of biological factors that interfere with the message. Examples of physiological noise include: poor eyesight, illness, hearing problems, allergies, headaches, memory loss, unable to read visuals without glasses, tired after working long hours, an upset stomach after lunch… the list can go on and on.
Semantic noise is noise caused by the speaker and occurs when technical language is used and the audience cannot understand clearly. It is common to experience this noise when someone is dealing with medical professionals, lawyers, scientists or others who use terminology that lay people may not understand.
But there is one more noise that creates significant ‘incongruence’ between what a speaker is saying and what the audience is actually receiving that is more common than all other noises and it’s called Movement noise.
When a speaker is constantly moving, without stopping to close the point being made, or to give the audience a chance to concentrate on the ‘intent of the content’ then this can be mistaken to be’ a lack of discipline… which implies a lack of control… and this becomes a communications noise.
Here’s the key principle of movement
“Control your feet and you control your Posture!”
I have taught this principle to thousands of people and have seen it completely change their confidence as a presenter and speaker. Uncontrolled feet shuffle. Uncontrolled feet shift weight from side to side. Uncontrolled feet rock back and forth or tip up on the toes and back down again.
When a speaker does not control their feet the audience will subconsciously assess them as uncomfortable, nervous and not in control. When this happens they will withhold their trust and 100% attention. This, in turn, makes the speaker feel less connected and the domino effect begins.
I’m going to give you four steps to help you control your feet. You will see this illustrated in the Delivery Skills for Platform Mastery PDF Download. which you can download from www.epicpresenting.com/deliveryskills
Step One: Establish a Balanced Stance
A balanced stance sets the foundation your authority to start showing itself. Here’s how it works:
Both Feet Equally Weighted On The Floor
What you need to do is draw an imaginary line on the floor and place both feet on that line. If you have one foot in front of the other you will tend to lean on the front foot and this creates the ‘wanna-goes’ – which means you rock on the front foot and then rock back creating the impression that you wanna go – no you don’t – you wanna go – no you don’t…you get the idea.
Aim At The Center Of The Audience
The next step is to make sure you keep your belly button aimed at the center of your audience, no matter where you stand. You could be standing on the left side of the audience, or the right, but you always aim your belly button to where the center of your audience is. The reason for this is it allows you the opportunity to stay connected with your audience as they are in your vision lane.
Here’s how you find your vision-lane:
- Hold both arms up at shoulder height and then start moving them out away from your body while keeping your eyes focused straight ahead.
- Start wiggling your fingers as you move your arms out and when you can no longer see your fingers moving you’ve gone too far.
- Bring you fingers back so that they are just on the edge of your vision and this is your vision lane.
If you have your belly button facing the left side of your audience then the right side will be marginalized and you will not be able to keep your audience in your vision lane.
It is very easy to find yourself focusing on one part of your audience more than the other and the way to prevent this is to always keep your belly button aimed at the center of the audience with your feet on that imaginary line.
Step Two: Start, Move and Stop
When you use movement, you must always start, move and then, come to a complete stop before you move again.
If you do not come to a stop and allow your audience to concentrate on your content, you may cause communication noise. As we’ve already talked about, when you are constantly moving, without stopping to seal the point you are making, or to give your audience a chance to concentrate on the intent of the content, this creates a lack of discipline and implies a lack of control that can become a communications noise.
As we’ve already outlined, continuous, ill-disciplined movement can send a negative message to the audience signaling nervousness and lack of confidence.
So, when you use movement, always use this simple rule: start, move and stop.
Step Three: Three Zones
The third step in using movement most effectively is to know the physical dynamics of movement.. I call them Movement Zones, and there are three of them.
One: Conservative Zone
As the name would indicate, movement in this zone does not require a lot of energy or space. In fact, all movement in this zone is made within a one-meter circle.
This translates to a subtle shift, a half step and reposition type of movement and is used to help direct an audience towards a larger, more dominant thought and movement. When you do move in this Zone, you operate within a one-meter circle around your home base.
Two: Moderate Zone
This Zone is perhaps the most used of all the three zones simply because it takes you to the very edge of the audience most often. This zone moves you outside the Conservative zone and can bring you anywhere inside the left or right boundaries of your audience edge, dependent on room set-up.
Three: Dynamic Zone
This Zone lives up to its name, but maybe not as you think. When used properly the movement in this zone is not overwhelming or threatening. Rather, the movement in this zone will connect you with your audience in an enabling and empowering way. What makes this zone dynamic is the distance between you and your audience.
As you use movement effectively, you will also need to do something with your hands, otherwise, you will look silly… stiff… and awkward.
“What do I do with my hands?” is one of the most asked questions in presenting and is the subject of a lot of misinformation. Someone somewhere told business presenters that they should not gesture with their hands; they will seem unprofessional.
Somehow this myth caught on. This is rubbish.
A confident, comfortable presenter will always speak while gesturing with their hands. On the other hand, a nervous uncomfortable presenter rarely ever moves their hands. If you want to appear to be confident and comfortable, you need to learn how to move your hands.
By restricting the natural movement of your hands through locking down your arms you create muscle tension which transfers to the rest of your body until ultimately it hits your vocal chords.
The result? A voice that sounds dull, flat, monotone, tense, lacking in energy, and low in volume. The message, at this point, is destined for failure and it all started as a chain reaction from you not using hand gestures in the way you normally would in every other daily conversation.
However, when you use effective hand control and gestures you are adding a powerful dimension to your presentation.
Just as a conductor uses a baton to synchronize the orchestra, effective presenters employ gestures to help conduct their message to the audience and that’s what this section focuses on – how to use your hands effectively.
When you use your hands correctly you can help increase the understanding and retention of your message. In fact, you can say more in less time, show what you mean without having to resort to visuals, signal your conviction and confidence and add texture and dimension to your material and ideas – all with your hands!
The question is, what does one do with their hands when they are speaking?
- Begin by using your hands to illustrate your enthusiasm for being there.
- Accentuate your point of view with a solid, intentional gesture and emphasize main points with deliberate gestures.
- Use your hands to indicate a new topic or transition with a forward or open gesture.
- Signal an ending with a gesture indicating closure or departure.
- You can also use hand gestures to enhance your message by using them to respond to audience input with affirmative or encompassing gestures or to introduce humor by signaling a contradiction between your gestures and your words.
- Where appropriate look for opportunities to use your hands to express emotion or an attitude, or to emphasize something that’s important.
- You can demonstrate a relationship or contrast something, or show a shape… set direction or identify a location… even signal a recognition, or acceptance, or departure, or approval.
Gestures are a part of everyday communication… and almost everyone I’ve ever met has used hand gestures in their natural communication with another person.
But, before we talk about gesturing, let me give you a firm foundation to operate from by explaining what to do with your hands when you are not gesturing.
The natural rest position for your hands is above the belt line, with your hands lightly held together, or one hand lightly resting on the other.
Just as a note, you may want to keep your ring finger on the outside or you may find yourself unconsciously playing with the ring. I’ve seen this happen so many times that I have literally lost count! This becomes a real loud communication noise.
Another rest position is with one down by your side, leaving the other hand positioned around the beltline for the occasional gesture.
Some people can rest both hands down by their side and it looks comfortable and natural. If this is you, then make sure you raise your hands to gesture in the communication zone.
Stay away from resting your hands on your hips, or behind your back. These are psychologically undermining. I know crossing your arms is comfortable, and I’ve done it numerous time, but it sends a message of defensiveness and not comfort, unless you have absolute authority and you have established a reputation, or have such credibility with the audience that you could stand on your head and speak Yiddish and they would think you are a guru beyond description… if you get what I mean?
So, let’s give you some guidelines to follow when you do need to gesture.
Guideline One: Your gestures must suit your style and that of your audience. You don’t want to try and use big gestures if you are naturally a conservative person. On the other hand, if you are an expressive person then you would probably look nervous if you tried to be too conservative.
Guideline Two: Use three dimensions for your gestures: Conservative, Moderate and Dynamic.
I’ll lead you through each of these dimensions and you will see illustrations of what I’m about to describe in the download titled Delivery Skills for Platform Mastery from www.epicpresenting.com/deliveryskills
When I say Conservative I want you to imagine a volleyball in your hands. Now, as you look down and see the distance between your hands, with the volleyball in between your hands, that is the Conservative dimension.
When you are using conservative hand gestures, you need to gesture with your hands up around your neck level. Not necessarily covering your face, but definitely around the neck.
Why is this so important? As we will learn next week in the section on Eye’s, all communication take places around the eyes and ears… which funnily enough seems to be on the same level. If you are gesturing down low, around your belt line then you are creating a split level communication channel, and this can become a communication noise.
So, to gesture using the conservative dimension you bring your hands up from the natural rest position and gesture to the dimensional size of a volleyball.
The second dimension is called Moderate, and this is best illustrated by the size of a beach ball. Imagine you are holding, out in front of you, a beach ball in between your hands.
With the volleyball in between your outstretched hands, you will see that your hands are positioned just outside your body width and the beach ball goes from your chin down to your belt line.
From your natural resting position you begin gesturing up around your neckline and you extend your gestures to occur within that dimensional shape of the beach ball. This is the moderate gesture.
The third dimension is called Dynamic and is the best way to understand this dimension is to imagine trying to hold a blimp. The word ‘dynamic’ is a very accurate description. All the gestures extend outside the body line and most often requires some form of movement to make it look like it belongs.
Before we summarize what we’ve covered today, let me give you some ‘Hot Tips’ to help you with using your hands as you speak.
- Add hand gesture notations in your practice notes.
- Avoid using the same hand gesture over and over in a pumping action.
- Don’t animate or mime your entire presentation.
- Refrain from copying others, the best gestures are unique to you.
- New gestures may feel strange to your body. Practice them until they are comfortable.
- One-handed gestures are often more effective than both hands mirroring each other.
- Avoid finger and fist gestures that may be insulting to other cultures.
- Gestures are a physical activity, you can not learn to do them by reading. (Practice Makes Permanent!)
- Use a mirror to verify that your gestures reinforce your message.Okay, let’s reinforce what we talked about today.
We opened by going on record as saying, poor communication skills can derail your career! Then I gave you several examples of comments I’ve heard over the years that underpinned that position.
Things like… “He doesn’t inspire confidence when he speaks to board members, employees, or senior executives.” “She’s meek and lacks presence, especially in meetings.” “He graduated high up in his MBA Programme but when he gives presentations he’s stiff, dull, boring, and really confusing.”
Here’s the blunt, unadulterated truth… whether large or small, you are being judged by how well you speak in public and how persuasively you deliver your message.
We then went on to say Physicality is the shop window. It’s where everything is showcased. Then we leveraged off of Albert Mehrabian’s 7%-38%-55% Rule.
One of the core conclusions of Mehrabian’s findings is that non-verbal elements are particularly important for communicating feelings and attitude… especially when words, voice, and body language were not congruent.
It’s this incongruence that creates a problem for the platform speaker. Incongruence between what you say and how it is being said is what creates a communication noise and this is the silent killer of platform mastery.
Then we talked about five types of communication noise. First, we talked about Physical noise, then Psychological and Physiological and Semantic. Most communication noise experts stop right there. However, we know there is one more and it’s called Movement noise.
When you are constantly moving, without stopping to seal the point you are making, or to give your audience a chance to concentrate on the intent of the content, this creates a lack of discipline and implies a lack of control… and this becomes a communications noise.
We said the most important principle was, ‘Control your feet and you control your Posture.’
After giving you specific steps for how to stand with a balanced stance and how to move most effectively, we unpacked what you do to rest your hands and to gesture most effectively.
Action Point of the Day
When you start writing your next speech, preparing to stand and deliver, bring four colored highlighters with you. I use them in this way.
My yellow highlighter is for movement. If I want to use a certain movement pattern to drive a point home or to create tension or reduce it, or maybe to connect with a particular part of or member of my audience, then I highlight that point in my practice notes with a yellow highlighter.
If I want to emphasize the use of my hands, I use the light green highlighter, If I need to engage the audience with a particular type of eye contact strategy, then I will use Pink and if I need to use a vocal image effect, I use the light blue.
That’s what I do, and you can develop your own combination and colors that best suit you.
Next week we will deep dive on eye contact and vocal image, so we will expand on how to shape a strategy effectively.
Now you know, there is more to come.