Tuesday, August 4, 2009

convey power without the "pow!": 5 ways

In last week's workshop, one attendee asked about how to convey power and authority without being, well, too overpowering...I'd call it power without the "pow!" So how do you pull off powerful? Here's what works for me, both as a speaker and when I'm observing speakers that I train:

  1. Show rather than say: British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said, "Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't," and I agree: Anytime you have to announce what you are, the impact of your statement is lost with your audience. Don't say you're chairing, in charge or otherwise a leader--that should be obvious from your introduction, your manner and your behavior.
  2. Control your reactions: Those might be your facial expressions, a physical reaction--like swinging your head around quickly or gesturing broadly--or verbal reactions. Psychologists will tell you that the only thing you can control in an interaction with others is how you react, so do it. Practice composing your face and hands to appear calm, relaxed and friendly. Listen to questions or comments, no matter how extreme, quietly and in control. If need be, practice some time-buying phrases to help you think while you talk, rather than react off the cuff.
  3. Posture makes perfect: The confident speaker stands tall, not hunched or too relaxed. She's ready to walk into the audience (which looks very confident), take a question or lead us further into her presentation. Make sure your shoulders are rolled down and into your back, your hands are ready to gesture, and your stance is comfortable and strongly positioned.
  4. Ditch the usual props: The most confident-looking speaker can leave the lectern behind (or lean on it), stop reading from a text and just talk to her audience, and handle Q&A without note cards. Here's my training trick: Practice one of these techniques at a time and incorporate it slowly into your speaking forays, then add another and another.
  5. Modulate your voice:Louder does not equal more powerful--in fact, the opposite may be true. You'll seem more in control, and thus, more powerful, if you can be seen to restrain your reaction. And certainly, part of controlling your reactions means not trying to one-up the loud or argumentative speaker. Think of relaxed, humorous, yet appropriate reactions, along the lines of Ronald Reagan's gentle riposte, "There you go again," a subtle way to chide a questioner politely.
Related posts: What should I do with my hands?

Lecterns: Use 'em or lose 'em


Angela said...

Fantastic article, Denise! I plan to re-post so that my network can enjoy it as well. I simply love that Thatcher quote :)


Denise Graveline said...

Angela, thanks for those nice words. Just in case there's any confusion, let me reiterate my policies: You're always welcome to link to my posts or to briefly quote from them in keeping with the "fair use" sections of the copyright laws. If anyone wants to re-post an entire post of mine, or a major part of it, on another blog or website, or republish it in any way, you'll need to write to request express permission to do so, at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz. I encourage links and posts in keeping with those guidelines!

Angela said...

Yes, by "re-post" I meant sharing the URL. Thanks for letting me know your guidelines.