Monday, October 19, 2009

Great Showmanship

As a speaker/presenter, you are a communicator. Your job is to successfully communicate a message in an interesting, engaging, and entertaining enough way for people to stay focused during the entire presentation. That’s no easy task. The average attention span of human beings is said to be no more than ten minutes. Then the brain simply needs to switch channels at least for a few seconds—enough to lose track of what’s being communicated.

Strong communicators are excellent performers, astute observers, and proficient energy translators. They read their audience, pick up hints, and move and sway with the mood. They dance gracefully, every step carefully planned but effortlessly executed, like pure play, holding the audience captive and eagerly awaiting their next move. Their words, flowing naturally and with poised ease, are just right—no more, no less—the perfect recipe, every sentence not too sweet, not too bitter.

The above describes what I would classify as great showmanship. Obviously it takes time, effort, and experience to arrive at this stage and become an accomplished speaker like this. And it takes courage. It requires you to
completely let go of any restrictions and to trust blindly in your own skill and divine inspiration. It is much like playing music, improvising. There is a difference between playing an instrument and playing music. One is craft; the other is art. When the two come together, you have magic.

Speakers use their voice, their body and their energy to convey messages, express opinions, etc. The more convincingly they do this, the better the show—the more successful and the greater the reception.
Any grand performance needs to have life and excitement and passion. The audience should walk away from it with some sort of bonus, something new that they’ve learned, something to think about, an emotional reaction, something that makes their life just a little bit different than before. Watching the performance needs to be worth their while because if it’s not, they will never come back.

What is it in other speakers that inspires you?
What makes you eagerly anticipate a particular speaker’s next appearance?
Any chance you get, watch other performers work; pay attention to what they are doing and why. Merely observing others can teach you so much.

So how do we get there? How do we learn to create the kind of magic that will spellbind our audience and make them cling to our every word?

Speak from the heart—speak with sincerity, display empathy and compassion, and show a genuine interest in our audience. We need to connect with them and relate to them on a heart level. People like to feel important and appreciated, and they like to feel loved. Show them that you are genuinely happy to address them, that you believe in what you are saying, and that you believe what you have to say is of real value to them.

Consider your audience your friends. Bond with them, offer a warm smile, and use eye contact and inviting gestures. Show emotion, if appropriate, and add soul and character to the performance, drawing on your own experiences. Use personal stories to create rapport and give them a real glimpse of you, the person. Relate to the audience and they will relate to you.

Touching people’s hearts in some way will always make them listen to you more intensely and connect with you. Remember, people are people, no matter what kind of high-profile jobs they have. So meet them on a person to-person level, even if your presentation is of a serious nature. A friendly, pleasant, and relaxed (but not sloppy) approach will come across as confident, competent, and in control. Your audience will trust you and pay attention to your message. If you are relaxed, calm, and comfortable, you will project it and inspire the same feelings in your audience. But the opposite is also true: if you are anxious and uneasy, your audience
will react to it and become anxious and uneasy too. The audience will mirror you. That’s why it is so important to take the time and make the effort to learn how to control anxiety, extreme nervousness, and so on. It is not only unpleasant to feel anxious; it also impairs the quality of your performance and certainly affects the audience’s perception of you.

Exercise: Be Inspired—Create Magic
• What is it in other speakers that inspire you?
• What makes you eagerly anticipate a particular speaker’s next appearance?
• What is great showmanship to you?
• Have you ever felt yourself being completely in the flow of a great performance, almost watching from the outside as the magic of skills combined with divine inspiration unfolded, effortlessly and beautifully—moving and swaying with the mood—like pure play?
If you have, hold on to that feeling and nurture it every day as you practice. Remind yourself of it and imagine that it is already a natural part of your performance—every time. If you have not yet experienced this state of being, don’t worry—you soon will.

Excerpts from Your Voice Is Your Calling Card; How to Power-Charge Your Voice, Boost Your Confidence, and Speak with Joy, Ease, and Conviction by Suzann Rye.

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To your Joy and Success!
Love, Suzann

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