One of the first things I do when I'm teaching people how to master causative communication to groups, is videotaping everyone's presentations. So they get to see themselves on video right off the bat.
The most common reaction is that people hate their first video. They hate how they look. They're very self-critical. They desperately want to change how they look up there.
It's not how you look, it's how you feel. Most people have this backwards.
What you're feeling is communicated telepathically to your audience. Human beings are incredibly telepathic and need no words to pick up exactly how you're feeling. It's the most influential aspect of your talk, it monitors everything: how open they'll be to your message, how much they get out of what you're saying, how much attention and respect they pay you, how argumentative or critical they are and, most important, whether they buy in.
What you're feeling is way more powerful than how you look, your words, or your hand gestures.
I recently worked with a senior director who had taken another training program where, in an attempt to give him what they thought was executive presence, they taught him how to walk back and forth across the stage and do "big hand gestures". The problem was, he didn't feel comfortable or natural, so it looked artificial. He sadly looked like someone trying to impress. You weren't drawn in.
There was a high-level woman, one of the best dressed women I've ever worked with, perfect hair, gorgeous. She was extremely self-conscious and there was no warmth coming from her, so you admired her appearance but she didn't pull you in.
Both of them were posturing for the audience. Not effective.
There was a high-level talent development/training director who wanted to come across as passionate so she could get executive buy-in for her department’s strategy. She was feeling rather desperate. Her attempt at “passion” caused her to come across as trying too hard. No buy-in.
I had a brilliant PhD design engineer who created absolutely dazzling slides. Even though he was presenting hard data that was cutting edge and incontrovertible, he was scared to death. He came across as a terrified adolescent.
I also had a guy in sales who strode around the room, trying to look like he was connecting with everyone, inserting what he believed were dramatic pauses throughout his talk. He was trying to look good, but he was feeling too eager to make the "close". He came across like he was selling, did not inspire trust.
None of them felt what you need to feel to communicate powerfully when you're talking to a group.
First of all, they weren't enjoying it and enjoyment is vital. If you were talking to someone who isn’t really, really enjoying talking to you (perhaps only pretending to enjoy it), how much are you going to really enjoy it? The same principle applies to communicating to a group.
I've had some people say, “But I enjoy it a lot! I love being in front of an audience and performing.”
Performing or trying to be interesting is about as effective as any showing off (which is all it really is). When people get the feeling you're showing off, they get the feeling it's all about (and for) you, it doesn't touch them.
I'm talking about making a deep connection with each person in the room (or on the call if you’re virtual) and actually in the moment experiencing the rich emotional enjoyment of connecting with each one of them.
It's NOT an intellectual activity it's a feeling.
It's a feeling of deep rapport with the audience.
You also need to feel relaxed, comfortable, confident and totally certain. This slows you down considerably, enables you to think on your feet, really tune in to your audience and respond to their subtle non-verbal cues as you speak, thereby creating tremendous rapport.
The combination of these makes you look amazing.
But the second you start thinking about how you look, you have too much attention on yourself and not enough on your audience.
Once you are up there, you have to FORGET how you look and create a feeling. This feeling communicates powerfully to your audience and they start feeling it with you.
I’ve coached thousands of individuals, including the ones above, and seen the amazing happen with each one, seen their full potential emerge, when they get this right. Each one of the individuals above is now someone you would love to go hear, regardless of what they're talking about, someone you just can't get enough of because of the feeling they create whenever they speak.
They don't worry about how they look. They simply get the feeling right, theirs and the audience's.