#78 Platform Projection: Authenticity, Ownership and Magic!
Platform masters know how to be authentic. They know how to own the spotlight. They know how to create magic moments!
Today, we begin a conversation about how to cross that undeniable line from being good to being a master… and that line is called ‘Showmanship.’
There are three areas I want to talk about that best defines how to be the right kind of showwoman or showman, in the right way for you… no matter what your style or personality.
First, we will talk about (1) Being True To My Authentic Self, then we will look at (2) Owning the Spotlight and (3) Create Magic Moments.
Being True To My Authentic Self
Authentic means being true to who you are. Genuine. It means not allowing anyone to change your way of speaking or behaving. I’m not saying there is a need for you to lift your game, or for you evolve and change over time.
That’s part of life… if we stay still… we die! Everyone needs to have a ‘forward facing’ goal for their professional and personal development. Some of us are very fortunate to have great role models and mentors come into our lives and they help us evolve.
I’m blessed. I’ve had several influential people who have strongly influenced my speaking personality.
Let me take you back to 1974 when I was a 14 year, bucktooth, spectacle wearing teenager who was mowing the back lawn one day, grudgingly I might add, when my dad approached me signaling for me to turn the lawn mower off and said to me, “Son, how would you like to preach this Saturday at the youth gathering, before the main service?”
I can still remember that day. I can remember the feeling… the surge of adrenalin, the rush of emotion. I felt it all… the fear, excitement, and anticipation all rushing to get to my face and show itself first. I smiled, then I smiled really big and then I said, “Great. That would be great.”
In hindsight, I’m sure I could have said something more profound… but ‘great’ was all I could get out. Dad turned and walked back to the garage which had been converted into his office and I resumed mowing the lawn… with renewed energy and a mindset on imagining… developing a vision of who I wanted to be when I stood behind that lectern.
Let me give you a little backfill…
In 1969 my mom and dad became missionaries to New Zealand for a US-based church organization. Translate this to mean being around the dynamics of platform performance from as early as I can remember. Both my mother and my father were hard working, determined people, proving the principle of an inspiring vision combined with a drive to overcome obstacles can create meaningful, life-changing outcomes.
Both my parents are communicators. If truth is known, I think my mom was slightly better than dad, but we will keep that between us.
From as early as 11 years old I can remember listening to preachers with an ear for ‘how’ it is done. I’ve always been fascinated with the spoken word. The art of crafting stories, shaping the subtle nuance of transitions. Inspiring an audience to get on a wave of emotion and travel with you to the end. It’s always held a fascination for me.
One specific, life-changing moment came in 1971 when I was sitting on the ground of a large marquee tent listening to one of the most gifted communicators I’ve ever heard, Mark Hanby. At that time Mark pastored a church in Fort Worth, Texas and he was in New Zealand as a featured speaker at a conference for the organization my parents had founded.
Mark held the entire audience, children, teenagers, and adults, with his ability to tell the story. Here it is over 44 years later and I can still see the vivid images of his message. Something was birthed in my spirit that day and I fell in love with platform speaking.
I began to study the craft of preaching, the only kind of speaking that I had been exposed to. Having said that, it would prove to be the best foundation I could ever ask for.
What I learned is not taught in school. I would listen to sermons that dad had on reel-to-reel and I would often go to sleep with the tapes rolling, waking up with the spindle turning and the tape flapping.
By the time dad came and asked that question in 1974, two years later, I had already listened to, and studied, over 30 different sermons from 20 different preachers.
This would continue to be a favorite way of passing time for me, even to this day. I am an avid follower of podcasting, audiobooks, and audio programmes. I listen to certain communicators because it feeds me. It also helps me keep my ear for ‘greatness’ sharp.
On that Wednesday afternoon in early 1974, as I mowed the lawn I began to imagine. I imagined the audience, their reactions, my preaching, the powerful impact. I even dreamed of the audience literally rushing the altar, pleading for God to forgive them for sins I didn’t even know about at the time.
The short story is, when I stood before the crowd of about 250 people, I had seven pages of notes and it took me about seven minutes to get to the end. Instead of the rush to the altar I heard the one sound a speaker doesn’t want to hear… silence followed by a few polite, sympathy hand claps.
As I stumbled back to my seat, my head down, my eyes darting here and there, refusing to engage with anyone but still… all the same… desperately trying to find a hole to crawl in, I was devastated.
How could it all go so wrong? I did it just like Mark Hanby! I even through in a little Tom Fred Tenney (a prolific communicator) and to give me an insurance policy… I even used a little my dad, who was one of the best preachers I knew.
But crash and burn I did.
As I sat down my dad leaned over, patted me on the leg and said, “Don’t worry son. It gets better!”
Later that evening, when he came into my room to check on me, he shared some advice, which at the time I struggled to grasp but now, years later, I know it to be profound. He said, “Son, develop your own voice.”
Now, over 43 years later, here I am, sharing that simple wisdom with you… Develop your own voice.
Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
What the world needs is you… your voice. The lesson my dad taught me that day was to be me. Don’t try and be Mark Hanby or Lloyd Moreau… but be the me that I was meant to be.
My journey to platform mastery has not been a straight line. I’ve had wins and I’ve had losses. If you are a follower of this podcast you will have heard me share several times that I’ve struggled to be authentic.
In fact, the times that I’ve fallen flat on my face is most often because I was not being authentic to my personality and style. What I was projecting was a false image. I was trying to be someone I was not.
Here’s what I now know about being authentic and I pass it on to you.
Four Ways to be Authentic
1. Start with your natural qualities.
Make a list of qualities that describe your strengths, for instance – sweet, kind, funny, serious, intense, direct, knowledgeable. Bring those qualities into your stand-up style. There is a tendency for speakers to think they have to act a certain way. Resist the temptation to be any way you think you should and just go with being the person those close friends know yours know you to be.
2. Be Unique.
Everyone has unique and quirky behaviors. Allow the quirky aspects of your personality to be a part of your speaking or performing style. Those personality quirks will be the marks of authenticity that your audience perceives with the eyes and ears of their hearts.
3. Let your style be based on your natural rhythms.
Introverts and extroverts have different rhythms for expression. Introverts are deep and inwardly focused, so their thoughts and words come from the depths of their being. If you are an introvert, then speak slowly and deliberately and thoughtfully.
Don’t try to manufacture enthusiasm that is false for you. Extraverts are dynamic and outwardly focused. If you are extroverted, be large and dramatic. Don’t try to squash your natural energies or be too controlled.
4. Say it like you would say it in real life.
I describe this as having a ‘conversation voice’ instead of a ‘presentation voice’. What this means is to stand and talk, to engage with your audience just like you would be if you were standing around, talking to friends in your living room.
Ask yourself, “How would I really say this?” Then say it that way as if you were talking to a close friend.
That’s the first step in Projection… Being Authentic.
Let’s look at step two… Owning the Spotlight.
Owning the Spotlight
When a speaker comes to the platform they quickly realize it is a place where everyone is waiting, watching and expecting. That’s when they come to the real awareness that they are standing in the spotlight.
It’s what they do next that determines their reputation. Sometimes the intensity of that spotlight causes a breakdown and nerves take over. We’ve all seen this slow moving train wreck and by extension, we’ve felt the acute pain of that meltdown.
You start to own the spotlight when you step into your mastery.
What does this mean?
When you start speaking, step into your words. When you start telling a story, step into your story. When you want to demonstrate a rise or fall… yeah, you have it, step into the rise or the fall.
I have a free PDF download for you, which will help you learn how to ‘step into the spotlight opportunities’. Go to www.epicpresenting.com/deliveryskills and you can register your name and download the PDF.
Owning the spotlight means you own the stage – all that you want to own and all that you can own. In the PDF download, I will show you how to own the three zones of delivery, which will also help you own the spotlight.
In addition to the vital information you will get from the Delivery Skills PDF download, you will also want to know how to use a very simple… but extremely important principle called ‘Calculated Spontaneity.’
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from watching and studying public speakers and business presenters over the past 40 years is how the platform master always create a ‘platform style’ that works for them.
By that I mean it’s unique to them. It incorporates their personality and their speaking style and fuses them into one, seamless delivery style that defines them.
They don’t necessarily use fancy language or “proper” English. They don’t even have to quote scientists, studies, literature, or philosophy. They simply get the basics right and build on them. They know who they are talking to. They marry big ideas with stories about life and the reality of business. They open themselves to their audience about things they know to be true creating an environment of shared experiences.
They are truly authentic in the physicality of their communication. Some jump and demonstrate vigorously and others stand and use subtle movement and gestures.
Mark Twain said this about spontaneity, “The art is to appear spontaneous while it’s a planned move.” Hang on… planned spontaneity? Really? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Well, let’s dive down into that for a couple minutes.
Yes, I do believe it is possible to plan spontaneity but there are two guidelines that I also believe must be followed. Here they are, your ‘planned spontaneous moment’ must be (1) built around something that is current and (2) relevant to that audience.
Let’s explore that a little more.
There are some subjects that are wide open for spontaneity. Take this one, for example. I was speaking at a conference several years ago and the weather was terrible, so I planned a ‘spontaneous moment’. I was talking about how to keep focused when you don’t have an office and use cafes for coaching… something I love doing and I’ve developed a little system around.
Anyway, here’s what I said, “So, after the coaching session I left the cafe and crossed the road to where my car was. It was raining cats and dogs – just like here… earlier today. By the way, did anyone else experience water damage getting from their car to the building today?”
Using the engagement tool of the ‘rhetorical question’ and hooking into the current weather situation, I was able to make it look and feel spontaneous, and make it relevant to that audience.
Here’s another example. You could make a spontaneous reference to the infrastructure around you: “I entered the office of the CEO and it was the largest office I’ve ever been in. In fact, I’d say it was about half the size of this room we are now.” I was looking around like I was measuring it, then said. “Yeah… it really was about half the size of this room.”
Or, how about this… you can make a spontaneous reference to someone from the audience: “I was just discussing this subject with Andrew at the morning break, he’s from Dallas, and he agreed with me that, …”
All three references seem to be spontaneous. But they’re not. They are – or can be, planned. Once you know that you want to use a ‘spontaneous’ illustration or example, or reference, you then go in search of a way to incorporate them into your message before you stand in front of the audience.
So, here’s the lesson.
Know what you are looking for so you can ‘own the spotlight’ by planning several ‘spontaneous moments.’ Remember this, owning the spotlight requires you to own the calculated spontaneity, and this, in turn, is the result of careful preparation, strategy, and practice.
Let’s look at the third and final step, which is Creating Magic Moments.
Create Magic Moments
Several years ago I heard a phrase that captured my attention. Here it is, ‘Five Magic Moments’.
Have you heard it before? Well, I went in search of either its origin or what it was based on. Here’s what I found, other than a song by Burt Bacharach and Hal David way back in 1957… yeah, you heard me right… 60 years ago… Magic Moments is really a ‘customer service’ reference.
One of the best reference points I’ve found for explaining ‘magic moments’ is found in the video titled Shep Hyken’s Moments of Magic™ at ParaFest ’09 – and for those of you who are listening to the podcast, if you’ll go to (www.epicprewsenting.com/podcast and look for #78 Projection: Be authentic. Own the spotlight. Create magic moments’ – you can watch the video. It’s a good watch.
So, for customer service, we know you can create moments of magic that motivates your customer to come back… again and again. But how do you do that as a speaker?
Let’s first define what we mean by a magic moment.
When your audience has entered into the moment with you, when they are giving you their 100% attention, when there is a rhythm and a flow that is seamless and free, then this is a moment of magic.
You and your audience are operating off of one pulse. It doesn’t last long, and here’s why… The audience will give you their undivided attention only for a limited time.
Now, experienced platform masters can bring an audience with them many times in a speech or a presentation, but even the platform master must acknowledge that they will not have 100% of the audience’s attention 100% of the time.
So, if you could choose the most effective speaking tool to create a magic moment, what would it be?
The answer is summed up in one word… Storytelling.
The Magic of Storytelling
More than six decades into the information age, we are suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder on a global scale. Where once there was space, now there’s cyberspace, crammed with several billion websites, not to mention the billions of social media pages all screaming in our face.
When you stand in front of an audience, any audience, it is a battlefield and you have to earn the right for someone to pay attention to you… to hear and take ownership what you have to say.
Andrew Robertson, President and Chief Executive Officer of BBDO Worldwide since June 2004, says this, “You need something with that magical ability to capture, hold and engage people.
Neuroscience has provided us with ample evidence that well-told stories not only let us into the speaker’s world and create empathy, but they actually change our brain chemistry.
Dr. Bruce D. Perry, the internationally recognized authority on brain development, claims that our neural systems fatigue within a few minutes of sustained activity as our neurons become less responsive. In other words, the brain doesn’t like the tedium of sameness; it likes to be stimulated. Think about your average business presentation where the speaker presents the same slide templates he always does in the same way with the same tone.
The bottom line is the brain experiences neural system fatigue, which is why so many of us end up switching off and our mind drifts elsewhere when we are sitting in an audience for any extended length of time.
This is where the magic is really needed. A good story, told really well, engages the brain of the and stimulates it. If you want to become distinctive… to stand out… to be memorable, then the short answer is to develop your ‘magic of storytelling’ muscles… so to speak.
Researcher Annette Simmons says, “A story is like mental software. Thus, designing a story is as close as you can get to programming someone’s brain.”
Where stories come from…
So, where do stories come from, especially stories that can be used in a business setting?
I remember reading an article in the HBR… must have been about 10 years ago, and it told the story of a number of senior managers who had been ‘downsized’… gotta love that word… anyway, they had been downsized out of high-paying corporate jobs took turns telling what they had done before and what they were looking for next.
Imagine this with me, one after one, like sheep, they all stood and recounted a laundry list of credentials and jobs, in chronological order. Some even the need to begin with their place of birth, their first job… and on from there.
Did I mention that they each had two minutes? That’s 120 seconds? Did I also mention that the average person will speak about 135-150 words a minute? You do the math.
Well, most of them spent their allotted two minutes with the preamble… the history and never reached the punchline. Oh… most of them lost the attention of their audience before the two minutes was even up!
In the feedback sessions that followed each round of presentations, these “fact tellers” were hard to help. The people listening couldn’t readily understand how their knowledge and contacts might bear upon the teller’s situation. Even worse, they didn’t feel compelled to try very hard.
All of us tell stories about ourselves. In fact, stories define us. What we need to learn is how to tell our story in such a way that it creates magic moments… not forgettable ones.
The best stories come from you… your experiences… your wins, your losses.
Having said that, let me give you three areas you can start to shape your own stories in your next presentation or speech.
The first magic moment opportunity… spark a specific action.
If you do, then your story should be based on an actual event. And, you need to have a protagonist or point of conflict that your audience will be able to identify with. And, you need to give enough detail to create context, but not so much detail that your audience becomes overwhelmed.
This is a very important point. You don’t want so much detail that the audience becomes completely wrapped up in it. If that happens, your audience won’t have the mental space to create an analogous scenario for change in themselves or their organization. For example, if you want to spark an action of embracing a new technology, you might tell stories about individuals elsewhere who have successfully implemented it, without dwelling on the specifics.
A second magic moment opportunity… letting people get to know you.
When people feel they know you, they will start to trust you. The likelihood that you will be able to influence change when you are in front of an audience if they don’t know who you are. where you’ve come from, and why you hold the views you do.
Here’s what happens when you tell stories about who you are and your journey, tour experience. The audience will not only understand you but they will also empathize with you.
Stories for this purpose are usually based on a life event that reveals some strength or vulnerability and shows what the speaker took from the experience. Take, for example, my opening story about the first time I stood in front of an audience and crashed and burned.
Unlike a story designed to spark action, this story has colorful detail and context and this means you need to ensure the audience has enough time and interest to hear your story.
A third magic moment opportunity is when you want to convey or communicate a value, or set of values.
A value-based story is a powerful, effective tool for unlocking and ingraining a value, or a set of values both in the minds of the audience.
Many times I’ve built an entire speech around one, or more, of our three guiding principles, which are (1) Everybody Wins, (2) Give a Lot and (3) Make Things Happen. I can communicate the value, or the principle, in the story and make it come alive for the audience. Often I’ve seen them nodding their head as I talked about one of our guiding principles.
When put into a story, the values are positioned in ‘real life’ and declare, without ambiguity, ”how things are done around here.”
These types of stories have been used for thousands of years. The name most often used to describe these types of stories is, a ‘parable’ and while the “facts” of a parable can be hypothetical, they must be believable.
Another great magic moment can be created in stories that foster collaboration.
Every management textbook will tell you about the importance of getting people to work together, to collaborate. But sadly, what appears in most of these textbooks is prescriptive.
When you want to create a ‘magical moment’ in your presentation or speech, tell a story about how it went down. Give the detail, use a parable approach, spark an action and demonstrate how to ‘work together’ with bullet points and next steps.
Move beyond prescription to subscription… and by that I mean to tell the story in such a way that the audience mentally and emotionally engage with you, they see themselves in the narrative and move from being a spectator to being a participator.
A ‘collaboration’ story needs to be a blend of emotion and logic… so that the desire to collaborate is ‘unleashed’ through both the vision and spirit of ‘making things happen together’.
Before we finish, let me give you a three-point summary of what we’ve covered today.
First, we talked about Being True To My Authentic Self and we said there were four ways to be authentic:
- Start with your natural qualities
- Be unique
- Let your style be based on your natural rhythms
- Say it like you would say it in real life.
Then we talked about Owning the Spotlight.
We introduced a line of thought that was built around ‘planned spontaneity’ and we quoted Mark Twain when he said, “The art is to appear spontaneous while it’s a planned move.”
Yes, you can plan your spontaneity and that’s how you own the spotlight. I have a free PDF download for you, which will help you learn how to ‘step into the spotlight opportunities’. Go to www.epicpresenting.com/deliveryskills and you can register your name and download the PDF.
Finally, we talked about Creating Magic Moments, those moments when the audience enter into ‘a moment’ with you, when they are giving you their 100% attention, when there is a rhythm and a flow that is seamless and free, then this is a moment of magic.
We quoted researcher Annette Simmons who tells us, “A story is like mental software. Thus, designing a story is as close as you can get to programming someone’s brain.”
We gave you three magic moment opportunities through the art of crafting and sharing a story: (1.) Spark a Specific Action, (2) Let people get to know you, and (3.) Foster Collaboration.
New Series Starting Next Month
Next month we will give you a ‘Netflix’ style series on The Art of Discovery Engagement – and by Netflix style I mean we will upload all four episodes at one time, 10:30 a.m. November 21st, 2017.
I will be back in the first week of November 2017 to tell you more about that bulk upload.
Thanks for all of you that have followed the Art of War for Public Speakers and Platform Mastery Series. I can see the weekly downloads and I truly appreciate it.
By the way, both books, The Art of War for Public Speakers and The 40 Day Platform Presence Journal will be published in the early months of 2018… and I will tell you more about that over the next few months.
In closing, please leave a comment or two in my iTunes or on my website if this series has been helpful and effective for you.
Until next time… as always… there is more to come!