#77 Showtime 2: I see it in your eyes and I hear it in your voice… It’s Mastery!
A platform master uses the whole body to engage, persuade, impact and compel their audience.
The whole body includes your eye’s and your voice and they work together.
If you have the ambition of being a Platform Master, then it is vital to develop the seventh Constant Factor of Platform Mastery, which is Posture.
Let me define what I mean when I say, Posture. I gave this definition in Episode #75 Showtime: The Art of Striking the Pose.
Most people will interpret Posture to mean a position in which someone holds their body when standing or sitting. That’s not what I mean when I say, Posture.
When it comes to Platform Presence, we say to behave in a way that is intended to position and impress… is to have ‘Posture.’
Imagine someone walking into a room, and there is an attitude surrounding them… an air of confident assurance. When they take the center stage or the spotlight… or when all the eyes are on them, they take command. They have ‘Posture.’
Platform Mastery Posture only comes from a position of inner confidence. It carries an authority based on ownership. There is no pretense. There is no ‘Fake It Till You Make It.’
We’ve already looked at Posture from two of three perspectives: Vulnerability and Mindset in Episode #76 Showtime: How the 93% Principle can save your reputation!
In that episode we talked about three subjects: (1) Communication Noise, (2) How to use Movement and (3) What to do With Your Hands.
Today, we close out Posture by dealing with the final two elements of Physicality, which are Eye Contact and Vocal Image.
Let me have your imagination for a minute…
Let me have your imagination for a couple of minutes as I take you back a few thousand years. We are part of a group of 20-30 ambitious, idealistic students following our sage, our teacher, our leader as he walks and talks, making our way through courtyards and tree-lined paths, leading to natural pools and creeks.
We are following a stocky old man. We are captivated by what and how he was talking with us.
Can you see it? Are you in the group with me?
Suddenly, he would stop, turns and engages each one of us by looking us, engaging us… me… you. He does it with eye contact. Only briefly, but purposeful all the same.
The intent of his connection suggests to us that what he is saying right now, at this moment, is just for us. And, he tells us in such a way, that we feel he has just thought of it… and had us in mind when the idea came to him.
As he continues, he pauses several times, deliberately. One time it was long, several seconds as if he was lost in the thought of the moment, Then, not long after that, he paused just long enough to allow the moment to build.
His energy is evident. HIs authority was clear in the way his voice made statements and asked questions, just with the inflection, the rhythm, and cadence of the way the words came out of his mouth.
His passion is contagious, yet controlled and this is seen in the way he is demonstrating his points with subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, hand gestures. Often his hands and his voice work in unison and when he leans in, with that direct, open eye contact, you know… this is an important point.
He always has a story to drive his point making the meaning of his point more clear and relevant, and before we know it, we have arrived at a moment of understanding, a place of clarity and focus. We see exactly what he’s been talking about and now, he expects us to do something about it.
Have you been with me? Could you see it in your mind as I was describing it?
Well, let me tell you who we’ve been listening to for the past few minutes. You and I have just been walking with, following and experiencing the unprecedented communication style of one of the most influential men ever born, the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, who together with Socrates and Plato, laid much of the groundwork for western philosophy.
Aristotle was one of the founding fathers of public speaking. He and a small handful of others like Socrates and Plato believed that every citizen should study public speaking and the art of persuasion as a natural part of their thirst for knowledge.
In his Art Of Rhetoric, Aristotle broke it down like this. First, you have to earn the respect of your audience, and he framed this around one word, Ethos. Then he taught that we had to support that earned respect by making sure we supported our message with solid facts (Logos). Finally, he taught that your credibility and the support of solid facts were of little use if you were not able to tap into, or appeal to your audience’s emotions and persuade them to action (Pathos).
When we look at Pathos, we are examining the emotional connection between a speaker and an audience. Pathos requires two distinct elements and without these two elements, the relationship simply does not happen.
These two elements are eye contact and vocal image. Today, that’s what we dive into, Eye Contact and Vocal Image.
Let’s start with the eyes.
All communication takes place around the eyes. In fact, you could say that your eyes are the best ears you have when it comes to in-person communication. An in-person conversation has little hope of surviving without some degree of eye contact, and the same holds true for a speaking performance of any kind…. it could be a large audience or a small one, makes no difference. The absence of eye contact creates disconnection.
Why is eye contact so important to a speaker?
Eye contact is a matter of punctuation. It is the registration of an idea, maybe a phrase… or even a single word. As a speaker, you linger long enough to sense an acknowledgment by the individuals in your audience and you know, when they nod or signal in some way, that they have ‘received you.’ It’s the confirmation of a bond or linkage, that has been created between a speaker and an audience.
Eye contact is not just one way either. The audience engages with you, and this is really important. Value the eye contact that is offered by your audience; it is an open door to communicate with power. As the audience listens, you can obtain a great amount of feedback from their eyes and facial expressions.
What the face and the eyes say is tremendously important and can be critical, to the success of your speech or presentation.
This is an important point. For you to know you are getting through to your audience, you need to receive feedback from them. For you to receive feedback, you must be observing the responses of the audience.
This can only be done when you are aware… seeing… watching… registering… with your eyes.
Imagine that the person you’re looking at is the only person in the room. For those few seconds, you’re having a one-on-one conversation with just that person. This is a magic moment, a time when your ‘communication line’ is direct with that person.
This ‘magic moment’ has two benefits. You’re likely to talk in a more conversational style because you’re drawing on the conversational skills you already have.
It may also reduce your nervousness because you’ll no longer feel like you’re talking to a big audience – but just to this one individual.
After you’ve made an important statement or declaration. Or, after you’ve positioned your message to deliver an insightful idea or critical statement, watch your audience. Look into the eyes of those whose eyes you can see.
One of the incredible things I learned many years ago as I was speaking to a very large audience, numbered in the thousands when I looked at a person in the audience, and they were some distance from me, everyone in a 3-meter circle gave me their attention. It was as though I was talking to each of them. This demonstrated to me that even in a very large audience, eye contact was still highly effective.
This demonstrated to me that even in a very large audience, eye contact was still highly effective. Watch for ‘subconscious’ feedback from your audience.
What do I mean by that? As you are communicating and that person in your audience agrees with you, they will most likely nod their head, or smile, or look to someone in their group or team for confirmation. All of these physical actions are done without conscious thought. It is an inner response, and it tells you a lot. Maybe you need to restate that point to drive it home. Or perhaps, you need to turn into a question, followed by a pause to encourage even more consideration by the audience.
Remember this little gem, 99.9% of your audience want you to be successful. They want you to stand in front of them and win. In fact, I think it’s fair to say; they are willing you to do so. The last thing they want to do is see you, or feel embarrassed for you as they watch you losing the plot, experiencing a meltdown. They don’t want to feel uncomfortable… they want to be ‘safe’ and ‘comfortable’ as an audience.
This is why eye contact is so important, and for this reason, they will gladly let you know that they are with you… sending you messages with their eyes and facial expressions, often, if you are looking for it.
Just before we move on to Vocal Image…
One of the most powerful eye contact moments comes at the end of a sentence. Unfortunately, this is also the time when most people are tempted to drop your eyes so that you can look at your notes or turn and look at a screen.
When you practice, do so with discipline. By that I mean, discipline yourself to keep your eyes up till you’ve finished your sentence.
Here’s a tip for you to use… starting right away. When you finished a sentence, count to three… thousand one… thousand two… thousand three… then look down to your notes in silence or turn to your screen to find your next point.
Here’s a golden rule I’ve worked hard to instill in my own physicality, ‘When words are coming out of my mouth my eyes must be engaged with someone in the audience.’
Now, I’m the first one to acknowledge, this is not easy and it takes a lot of practice… and then more practice. After all, practice makes permanent!
Okay, let’s talk about your voice.
The first rule of all communication is to be heard and understood.
According to social psychologists, people begin to make relatively durable first impressions within 6 to 12 seconds of perceiving a sensory cue.
This means that the audience begins to form their impressions of you, the speaker, the moment you walk into their view and by the time you open your mouth to speak… they are in the confirming stage.
Your vocal image will tell them whether or not you are the real deal… or a scared, nervous and gun-shy imposter.
There are two factors that combine to create a strong vocal image. (1) The speaker’s physical vocal tools and (2) The sound that is created by them.
Let’s quickly talk about the Tools first.
There are five physical tools involved in creating sound. Here they are Lungs, Vocal Cords, Throat, Mouth, and Ears. At each stage in the sound production process, we can easily fall into negative habits and lazy patterns if we’re not careful.
Now I know some people sound like they are gifted by the gods with an incredible voice. Case in point, James Earl Jones. This guy is almost untouchable in the incredible sounding voice department. Or, how about Liam Neeson? Or Morgan Freeman?
In fact, I have provided a double blessing for you. You can hear her voice AND hear her give her insightful wisdom on her Top 10 Rules for Success. I really encourage you to watch the video below. Listen to her vocal image and the message she carries.
Especially listen to Number 10… an excellent use of vocal image.
Although we can’t do much about the physical voice mechanism we have been given, we can certainly exercise a great deal of control over how our voice is used.
A strong, confident voice is an essential part becoming a Platform Master. If you want to project an image of confidence and professionalism, don’t overlook the subtle benefits of effective vocal power.
Here’s a little survey to run on yourself.
Invite 10 people who heard you present your business, or given a presentation to in the last 12 months, and ask them to answer these four questions:
1. Did my voice detract from the perception that I am an authority on my subject?
2. Did my voice energize you?
3. Were you bored or lulled into a daydream as I was talking?
4. Did the sound of my voice say one thing but I was actually saying something else?
If you get a yes to any one of these questions, then you really do need what I’m about to say. This is a starting point for you to start working on your vocal image.
One of the first elements of vocal image most people need to work on is the effective use of inflections.
Check this out. “Hi, Good morning everyone? Today I want to talk about moving beyond average to being great in your public speaking?”
Hmmm. If I was sitting in that audience, I would start feeling a little unsure of this speaker’s ability to speak with authority and confidence… especially if this was said with their head aimed down at the podium or their visual support screen. This is the result of upper inflection.
How about we do that sentence again, only this time, using downward inflection.
Check this out. “Hi, Good morning everyone! Today I want to talk about moving beyond average to being great in your public speaking!”
Can you hear the difference?
Now, don’t misunderstand me. Not everything needs to have an exclamation point to drive it home. In fact, there are times that you want a question mark to drive a positive statement, simply because you are wanting to use it as an example of an audience engagement, like the rhetorical question used to guide thinking… no response required.
Using the right inflection, at the right time is the first step in creating a confident, authoritative vocal image.
By the way, when you are holding a virtual conversation, presentation or meeting, or a podcast like what I’m doing right now, your vocal inflections and habits are more important than ever. Believe me. I’ve listened to hundreds of podcast, and many of them don’t make it past the first three minutes before my mind is wondering and I’ve lost connection with the reason why I even started listening in the first place.
An effective Vocal image is built off the base of effective use inflection. So, what does is it we mean when we say, “Inflection”?
Infections are the smooth pitch changes within words. They add interest and melody to the voice and speech. An inflection signals finality, strength, and completion. A downward inflection will on the end of most sentences, sends the message of authority and power.
In most occasions where the sentence experiences a rising, or upward inflection will signify doubt, uncertainty, and confusion and to suggest an incomplete thought.
In many speaking occasions, an upward voice inflection delivers the impression of a weak, indecisive and immature thought being communicated. It’s asking the audience to accept it as it is. It’s also a sign that the speaker is seeking approval, from that audience.
When you are able to deliberately use inflections to accurately reflect the intent of your words, you have set in place the foundation for mastery, the Platform Master kind of mastery.
The next element in a master level vocal image is the use of the Pause, perhaps the single most underused vocal image tool.
I have used a simple little model to help those I coach grasp the importance of a pause. When you pause before you say something you are creating value and when you pause after you say something you are confirming value. So, remember it like this, ‘Before Creates & After Confirms’.
Just before I tell you about several pause techniques that I highly recommend you start using, let me give you two insightful benefits of being able to use a pause.
First, a pause will help you engage with your audience. How is this?
Speaking without pauses means your audience are doing everything they can just to keep up with you. Using pauses, on the other hand, gives your audience time to reflect on your words, and start making connections with their own experiences or knowledge in real time. Forming these personal connections with your content, along with eye contact and effective use of hands and movement… is just magic. It shapes the basis of strong audience engagement.
Secondly, a pauses let’s your mind “catch up” to your mouth.
Really. I’m serious. Sometimes our mouth says something that has not been properly vetted, or processed through the internal approval checkpoint. You know… we end up saying something that completely undermines our credibility or reputation. I remember one time having a brain explosion as an Emcee at a formal event.
I remember one time having a brain explosion as an Emcee at a formal event.
Herre’s what happened… for some reason, which to this day I still don’t understand why… I swore… from the podium… in a formal setting… totally uncalled for.
I was in such a rush to get all my words out that I never took the time to run what I really wanted to say, through the ‘Control Checkpoint’ that said, “Yes, this is a good thing to say. It makes sense and is suitable for delivery.”
I have never been asked back to any kind of engagement with that organization.
Technically, a speaker performs two tasks simultaneously:
The first task is internal, and involves thinking what to say (and what to do) next.
The second task is external and involves vocally projecting those words, using body language, and other interactions with an audience.
Ideally, the internal tasks build up a line of words and actions for a speaker to deliver, always having words ready when needed. Pausing gives the advantage to the internal task, and helps your mind “catch up” to your mouth.
Okay, let’s talk about some techniques that will help you create a powerful vocal image.
The first is what we call the Comma Pause. It works like this; you use short pauses in your speech whenever a comma would be used in written language to separate two clauses or to separate items of a list clearly.
In Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln, James C. Humes advocates breaking your speech text into a series of short clauses, one per line. Through rehearsal, short pauses are introduced whenever the line ends — at the end of each clause.
The second type of pause that is effective to use is the Sentence Pause. It works like this, you use medium pauses wherever a period (or question mark, or exclamation mark) would be used in written language to separate two sentences.
A sentence pause should generally be longer than a clause pause, just as a period is a more forceful punctuation mark than a comma.
Here’s a little technical note, be careful to not connect sentences with “and” infinitely. Doing so robs your audience of this critical semantic break.
Using pauses gives your audience time to reflect on your words, and start making connections with their own experiences or knowledge in real time. Forming these personal connections with your content is the basis of audience engagement.”
I’m sure you know by now that if you have a Comma Pause and a Sentence Pause, it would stand to reason that you would have a Paragraph Pause. Yes, You would use longer pauses in your speech whenever you are transitioning from one idea to the next, in the same way as paragraphs are used in written language.
There are Rhetorical Question Pauses, and New Visual Pause, which is when you are speaking with slide visuals and you pause when you bring up a new slide.
There is also a pause best described as the “I’m in Thought” Pause, which I love to use. Sometimes I need to use it because I am in thought and then other times I use it because I want to create the impression, the idea, that I am working my way around the right way to say what I want to say.
The final pause I want to introduce to you today is The Power Pause.
In Trust Me: Four Steps to Authenticity and Charisma, Nick Morgan suggests that powerful people indulge in longer pauses. In the first chapter of Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln, James C. Humes advocates starting your presentation with a deliberate pause: “Before you speak, try to lock your eyes on each of your soon-to-be listeners. Force yourself before you begin your presentation to say in your own mind each word of your opening sentence. Every second you wait will strengthen the impact of your opening words. Make your Power Pause your silent preparation before any presentation you make.”
I have used the Power Pause regularly in my own presentations, and I find it has two wonderful effects. First, it earns the attention of my audience. Second, it allows me a few seconds to center myself, take a deep breath, and confidently launch into my opening words.
Before we close this episode out today, and before I come back with a few key point messages, let me remind you, we have a free download for you titled Delivery Skills for Platform Mastery. It talks about all four of the Physicality elements, with illustrations.
If you would like to download that free PDF go to www.epicpresenting.com/deliveryskills and it’s yours.
With the content of the last two episodes, and the content in that download you will have an entire training module on how to develop and sustain platform presence that leads to platform mastery.
It’s our intention to make this podcast the most content-rich professional development experience you can find in any podcast directory… (Power Pause… )anywhere in the world… (another Power Pause…) for free!
Did you notice the Power Pause with a downward inflection? Good.
There are three critical messages I want you to remember from today’s episode.
All communication takes place around the eyes. In fact, you could say that your eyes are the best ears you have when it comes to in-person communication.
Value the eye contact that is offered by your audience; it is an open door to communicate with power. As the audience listens, you can obtain a great amount of feedback from their eyes and facial expressions. What the face and the eyes say is tremendously important and can be critical, to the success of your speech or presentation.
For you to know you are getting through to your audience you need to receive feedback from them. For you to receive feedback you must be observing the responses of the audience. This can only be done when you are aware… seeing… watching… registering… with your eyes.
Now, let’s pull out three critical messages from Vocal Image.
According to social psychologists, people begin to make relatively durable first impressions within 6 to 12 seconds. This means that the audience begins to form their impressions of you, the speaker, the moment you walk into their view and by the time you open your mouth to speak… they are in the confirming stage.
Using the right inflection, at the right time is the first step in creating a confident, authoritative vocal image. In most occasions where the sentence experiences a rising, or upward inflection will signify doubt, uncertainty, suspense, confusion and to suggest an incomplete thought.
A pause before creates value and a pause after confirms value. Remember, Before Creates & After Confirms.
Let me add a bonus Critical Message. Speaking without pauses means your audience use all their effort just to keep up with you. Using pauses, on the other hand, gives your audience time to reflect on your words, and start making connections with their own experiences or knowledge in real time.
Okay, here’s your Action Point of the Day.
Practice saying “People should love their neighbors as themselves.” – using the full range of vocal image tools we talked about today.
- Use upward and then downward inflections.
- Use the full range of pauses.
- Experiment with making the sentence change shape and have multiple personalities, with the sound of your voice.
As you begin to own the Physicality of being an effective speaker, you know that you are well on your way to becoming a Platform Master.
Next week we begin talking about Projection, the eighth and final Constant factor of Platform Presence that Leads to Platform Mastery… and it’s not what you think it is either.
And now you know, there is more to come.