“If I’m not having fun, or learning anything, then I’d better be sleeping.”
One of my “go to” experts for great ideas and inspiration is Harvard professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter. She’s known for having tangible advice and practical ideas on leadership and change. I’ve noticed that she is often included on those lists of the most influential thinkers so clearly I’m not alone.
In addition to her book on Confidence, I remember reading a piece on leadership that really spoke to me. It was about the importance of positive energy. Successful leaders possess this quality and are able to communicate in ways that enable us to hear their message and internalize it. Based on her work, I offer three tips for speakers and presenters who want to enhance their ability to “speak” to their audience.
1. Make sure your examples, anecdotes and references are positive. A strong, positive message delivers better results for your audience than a critical or negative one. Take an inventory of past presentations to assess how many examples or stories you use that are critical in nature or have a deficit mentality. Now re-cast them in the positive. You can still talk about decreasing error rates, etc., without bringing down the collective mood of the room.
2. Don’t try to control the audience. Great presenters keep the pace moving and maintain a southern California climate. They are not thrown by negative, listless or texting-obsessed audience members. And most of all, they don’t try to control those people. If you allow your agenda to be sabotaged by a few difficult people, the rest of your audience will blame you. But if you maintain your energized, positive vibe, the audience will thank you for it. One caveat: if you have an audience member who is purposely trying to undermine your success, by all means, take them aside and ask them to leave in your most polite flight attendant voice.
3. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Oops. I should put that into a positive sentence. Lighten up and release yourself from the expectation of perfection. This tip is one that I have worked hard to achieve. What I learned over the course of some excellent speeches and some not-so-great presentations is that the average audience wants us to succeed. We don’t have to know everything about our topic, and we don’t have to get everything just right. The #1 sign that you are able to lighten up and go with the flow? You’re smiling. Otherwise you are going to need Botox for that permanent crease between your brows – and who wants that?!
“Studies show that optimists are more likely to listen to negative information than pessimists, because they think they can do something about it. To keep moving through storms, energizers cultivate thick skins that shed negativity like a waterproof raincoat sheds drops of water. They are sometimes discouraged, but never victims.” – RMK