Being at the top of your field means you’re often in the limelight: giving speeches, making presentations, organizing events.
But while you’re probably already familiar with the ins and outs of public speaking, learning how to work the spotlight to its full potential can do wonders for your business, said Alan Fox, author of the new book “The Seeker in Forever” and director of StoryFocus Communications, a company that helps executives incorporate aspects of good showmanship into their work.
“[As you] move into higher and higher levels, you have to get out from behind your desk and from behind the e-mail and all the technical stuff, and you’ve got to actually present your ideas,” Fox said. “It becomes important to use all the tools, resources and guiding principles available to you.”
Part of that, Fox said, is learning to consistently deliver your message in a succinct yet charismatic way.
“It leads to a deeper, more emotional connection and to a more productive collaboration among people,” he said. “They are more willing to learn.”
Since the point you need to get across is most important, the first step to becoming a master orator is to fine-tune your message, Fox said.
“You’ve got to be able to get it down to something innovative or that has news value in it,” he said. “Not all messages are equal: Some of them are all very logical and sane and rational — people have said them before. Others are innovative, because they put two things together that other people haven’t put together.”
It is this novel way of thinking and the interesting nugget it produces that will sustain your audience’s interest.
“Breaking things down to a pitch size and in that pitch having something that’s innovative is really, really hard — the good [speakers] bring two opposites together,” Fox said. “‘Man bites dog’ is the ultimate example of that.”
Once you have perfected what you’re going to say, your next goal is to work on how you say it.
Recalling a line from former President Ronald Reagan’s autobiography, “Where’s the Rest of Me,” Fox advises: Know what you look like from every angle.
Evaluate yourself — your appearance, your presentation skills, etc. — and make a note of what effect each element has on people, including what needs improvement.
Oftentimes, you’ll find that translating confidence in your product to confidence in front of an audience is tricky.
“One thing that beginning actors do that seasoned actors don’t do [is] if they’re near a chair, they’ll hold the chair,” Fox said.
Practice speaking in the middle of the room, away from furniture, and “if you can do that with comfort, you’ll feel like you’re suddenly in another stratosphere of communication,” Fox said.
Another point to consider is that when you’re in charge of a group — such as when you’re presenting material in a meeting or leading a discussion — you need to be on a higher level of liveliness and enthusiasm than your audience to capture their attention.
“You can’t perform at the energy level that you live with,” Fox said. “All the good communicators have lights in their eyes; there’s a sparkle in there. How do you turn your headlights on?”
Fox suggests talking with your whole body — gesturing and using physical movements to express emotion — to help you appear (and then feel) more energetic.
He added that just taking the time to think about your mood and rev yourself up can do the trick
“People will feel like they’re more charismatic,” he said.
The result of incorporating all these techniques into your daily routine, Fox said, is a more engaged, integrated workforce with a greater respect for the organization.
“Good showmanship equates to being good at achieving the business aims of today’s organizations: The team and your colleagues are moved in some way,” Fox said. “People will better remember what you say and will form a better emotional connection to what you say.”
As with any element of your job, however, mastering good showmanship doesn’t just take practice — it takes time and experience, too.
“It’s like they say about blues music,” Fox said. “It’s only five notes and it takes you a few minutes to learn, but it takes a lifetime to master.”