What I have in mind are the rules of the psychology of communication that we can use in relation to public appearances or business presentations, e.g. during sales meetings. Communication during public appearances is only seemingly different from communication during normal conversation with another person. It may seem that it is more one-sided but this assumption is the first key mistake. If you are able to establish communication with a group of recipients, get them involved in the conversation, exchange of opinions and views, and hence engage them. This way you can hit the spot as this is what you need – engagement. During public appearances it is worth applying principles that also work in any other conversation.
All of the below listed tips are developed during our courses.
1. It is the inner part that counts – your intentions and emotions.
What you have inside should be approached from the point of view of two levels – the first one relates to how your attitude affects you. Do your thoughts, emotions and the method of working with them help you or rather limit you? Another level is how others see you through your thoughts and emotions. What you express on the stage or during a meeting, your attitude and what you want to put across, can be seen and heard immediately. You have to be a great actor to be able to hide your attitude. The question is whether it is a good idea, or perhaps it would be better to work on a method of describing a situation that you are in at a given point as well as the people that you are addressing, so that it becomes more useful. Become fully aware of what you think about the recipients before you face them. Instead of imagining a group of people with a negative approach, think about the audience as friends that you want to talk to. They are just like you, expressing similar emotions, needs and desires. Try to simply see a human being on the other side. It will make it easier for you to be a human, too with all your features, in such a difficult situation as public exposure.
2. Converse instead of just speaking.
I understand that you associate public appearances with speaking to others but you cannot forget about the key aspect: what is the purpose? You want your message to reach the recipients and make them interested. The best speakers do not only speak but they ask questions, talk to the audience, comment reactions, listen and observe. They are present to be able to respond to what is happening on an on-going basis. They treat the audience as their speakers and partners, they show interest and respect while engaging the recipients into interaction step by step. Reacting to what is happening at a given point on the stage does not exclude outstanding preparation but just the opposite. Precise preparation allows to act in a free and flexible manner.
3. Gain sympathy and trust.
Gain sympathy through open and honest attitude and you will also gain trust of your recipients. This will already be half of success. The second half is your credibility and this includes experience, comprehensive knowledge of the subject and professional approach. Such a combination will make your audience have positive associations about you.
4. Be a leader.
A situation of public exposure requires large courage, skills of coping with stress and taking control. When you are on the stage or making a presentation, you are the leader, you conduct the meeting, you talk and express your opinion, you encourage others to participate, you are the director of everything that happens during your appearance. This requires you to take responsibility. It is not important who you are speaking to, whether your boss is in the audience – when you are on the stage, you are the leader. Your confident, open and natural attitude will be the keys to your success. Keep in mind that confidence is not equal to being cunning. Make sure your superiors, since we are focusing on them, feel special, e.g. look at them more often or greet them in a specific way.
5. Keep calm and composed.
Be sure that the message you bring across to your recipients, either by words, body language or your appearance says: “I am calm, I feel confident where I am.” Your composure will translate into trust and belief that you know what you are talking about and you are certain about your knowledge.
6. Set a clear goal.
Before you start a presentation, or best before you start working on it and preparing for the speech, ask yourself a question what you expect from it? What should its result be and what is your goal? Let me add that if your answer is something along the lines of: presentation of annual plans or a summary, then it is worth ensuring that the content of your presentation does not lack emotions and does not only involve numbers. There are special situations where you have to present difficult information but we will deal with this subject in a separate training module.
7. Be yourself – BE NATURAL.
Be yourself is a point that seems to be banal and obvious. In my opinion, it is not the case. Despite the fact that you often admit to others that you are yourself and that you like yourself the way you are, these are just appearances, a certain creation corresponding to what should be shown, what is considered beneficial and how you want to be portrayed. Naturalness in a situation of public exposure is difficult because it requires acceptance of who you are, coping with judgement of your recipients and overcoming stress. However, only naturalness enriched with outstanding preparation will give you best results.
8. Treat mistakes as a natural part of a presentation or speech.
If you are uncertain of something, do not be afraid to talk about it. If you become lost, admit it and go back to the correct point. If you make a mistake, say something incorrectly or trip you will be given a great of opportunity of gaining sympathy of the audience… I do not think anyone likes ideals. Your reaction to the situation will be decisive in whether you use the opportunity well. Elliot Aronson described the so-called pratfall effect which makes occasional embarrassments improve likability and attractiveness. Always try to remain calm and distant in such situations. If you act this way, the audience will also be distant. Perhaps this is not a completely adequate comparison but many comedies or gags are based on bloopers or incidents that happen to people making the audience laugh to tears. I am not trying to convince you to planning such a behaviour at all. I am only showing you a connection or examples of what apparently seems to be a blooper can be often transformed into success thanks to your distance. I love when bloopers are presented at the end of films showing the actors’ errors during shooting. This makes the film star seem more like a normal person. It shows that we are unaware that what we often see as the perfect outcome that an artist achieves ideally without any effort, is really a result of numerous retakes and long, hard work. Of course you have to remember to act accordingly to a situation. Laughing at a funeral is something that would only be seen in specific British-humour films.
9. Be precise.
Convey what you want to put across in a clear manner using legible words. Do not exaggerate, or try to be too cool or eloquent. This may cause the opposite effect. Using sophisticated language may result in your audience being distant, unless you are speaking to a group of writers. Simple (but well-mannered) language will eliminate misunderstandings. You have to remember that people often see things or situations in slightly different way than you. What is obvious to you does not have to be so obvious to others. Only when you are skilful and self-confident will you be able to start creating more complex appearances. Nevertheless, the rule is always similar: it is better to make the speech shorter than extensively long. Try to recall appearances of speakers during the last conference you attended. We usually remember those who speak in a brief and graphic way, within the timeframe indicated for their appearance. Such people bring positive memories. The time of the speech is indicated due to the agenda of the meeting and also to make people interested in something, rather that completely covering a given subject. Conference appearances should be treated more like an advertisement. If you are able to arise interest of your recipients, you can tell them more backstage.
10. Make your emotions contagious.
Speak clearly about what you want to achieve. Show positive emotions, underline your involvement and interest in the subject. Talk passionately about what you do. The emotions of your recipients will be the best meter for the success of your activities. Your dynamics and attitude will be contagious. I will talk more about this in modules relating to communication.
11. Be coherent.
Make sure that your behaviour, appearance, way of speaking and everything else are combined in a harmonious whole so that everything matches and supplements one another, creating a coherent and legible information about you. Good content in an attractive packaging will sell better. There have been experiments made to prove that the way of speaking and proper self-presentation of the speaker can be more important than the actual content of the speech.
The above rules are the basics of effective appearances. During a training course relating to this aspect, one often focuses primarily on the outer part but learning should start from the inner part. It is less important how you stand, how your arms are positioned, how you move or what you wear. When standing in front of an audience, it is important to feel that you are a valuable person who deserves attention and is worth being listened to. Such positive confidence will make it easier for you to overcome stage fright because during a speech, you are mainly facing a judgement, and it is interesting to note that the judgement is not always made by the audience but by yourself about what others may thing of you.
I am looking forward to seeing you during my public and media appearance training courses.