The Clear Difference

Headshot 2The vast majority of presentational trainings will typically mention things like “impressing” an audience or how to “connect” to them by telling them stories or jokes. They talk about asking the audience questions to get them to “engage.” And they tend to talk about body language as an area of training to pursue because of what it communicates to an audience. On the face of it, things like this make sense in that most presenters do indeed want to impress and impact their audiences. The trouble is, those desires are ultimately intended to benefit the speaker and that’s just where the whole focus goes… the speaker. But almost every problem my clients end up facing, is self-generated. When they become concerned about themselves and how they’re coming off, they completely disconnect with the audience because they’re focused elsewhere. The first question I ask a client who crashes during training is, “On whom did your focus just go?”

When speakers are passionately focused on serving their audience as a primary goal to which all others defer, there isn’t room in their consciousness to entertain thoughts about how they’re coming across which would only serve to distract them anyway! The brain is really only available to focus on one thing at a time in spite of the commonly-used term, “multi-tasking.” When a speaker is authentically being the most “themselves” that they can possibly be, they are the most trustable and authentic they can be as well. That’s what a speaker REALLY wants to accomplish as a prerequisite to serving their audience with the content they want to present. Their intention and methodology becomes streamlined and devoid of anything that isn’t completely necessary to their endeavor. And that’s when dynamic presentations happen. Toscanini put it this way: “Great performance becomes possibly only when the heart is on fire and the mind is on ice!” Cluttering up the landscape with self-concerns flies directly in the face of that goal.

But here’s the corresponding and completely paradoxical benefit to actually losing the focus on yourself… actually end up being MORE impressive to an audience because they can see your intent clearly isn’t about trying to impress them which ends up……impressing them! You end up looking far gutsier and they end up trusting you far more because they sense your intention is for their benefit. The main goal I see for my clients can be distilled down to this: I want them to be the most completely authentic version of themselves whether it’s in front of 3 people in their living room or 3000 people in an event hall in front of a microphone. Successful presenters bring their own safety with them and they don’t wait for it to be bestowed on them by the audience. I saw this happen over and over with the thousands of actors I coached and directed in my career. And I saw it before that with my father who was a conductor who was focused solely on creating the sound he heard in his head so that it actually materialized in front of the audience. He called the realization of that sound, ‘The Mountaintop” and knew it was a place that EVERYONE could enjoy if they just took the right route. A route he knew intimately. He made whacky faces in front of the orchestras and choirs he conducted, he danced around sometimes and he told amazing stories to explain sound concepts so that the forces arrayed for his purposes, could actually produce those sounds. What they thought of him was of no concern to him at all because his focus on the sound was all-consuming. And in a sense, he almost disappeared in his own experience because his focus was so streamlined and intense. The performers with whom he worked, completely trusted him because they could see no other intention anywhere in sight! He was pure and un-conflicted by any other possible considerations and the one who has the least amount of considerations in any situation, will always have the most power available to them. That’s because nothing can be taken from them that they aren’t already willing to give up! To the extent that a presenter fears what could happen to them? That’s the extent to which they are completely vulnerable to having those fears realized and this is actually supported by science.

In essence, what I do with my clients is streamline their most authentic self and minimize the ways they can screw up their presentations. Because screw ups are pretty much about the speaker and not the audience.┬áNot that we’re wanting them to happen but if they do, that isn’t the worst thing. Because the WORST thing, is the failure to serve your audience which is NOT┬ánegotiable! If that’s the passionate endeavor your audiences sense from you? Then they will absolutely trust you and that connection will absolutely happen and you’ll impressing them too! Though it probably won’t end up mattering to you!

If all this sounds paradoxical to you, then you’re right! It is! But over and over it’s been proven to me the surest route to distilling a speaker’s authentic self into their presentations. And then presentations become fun! And they sure don’t need me anymore because they’ve given themselves a touchstone experience that belongs to them. And they’ll always know the way there. Their own unique route… to their own, “Mountaintop!”

Stephen Salamunovich CSA