Have you ever endured a meeting or workshop where the speaker has no real enthusiasm or interest in what they are talking about? It sucks…it drains your energy, demotivates you and leads you to lose interest in whatever the speaker is trying to share. Ugh.
On the other hand, have you ever listened to a speaker who is excited, loves what they are talking about and injects real enthusiasm into their presentation? There’s a HUGE difference – not just in the speaker’s style, but more importantly, in the way that the audience responds.
The Power of Enthusiasm
Every day, we see all around us that people are drawn to enthusiasm. Enthusiastic speakers create excitement – they are interesting, they capture our attention and we find ourselves trying that much harder to like them. In fact the simple act of speaking enthusiastically makes the speaker come across as being confident and authoritative. Clearly, a Leader that wants to motivate their team and get the best out of them needs to create a sense of contagious enthusiasm.
So think for a moment about how YOUR presentation style.
How does it affect your audience – your project team, stakeholders, vendors, partners or colleagues? Do you speak with confidence and authority? Do you create a sense of contagious enthusiasm and inspire confidence and authority? Are you more Anthony Robbins or Ben Stein?
James Feudo highlights a really interesting point – the value of capturing the listener’s attention at an emotional level.
If you want to get someone excited about what you’re talking about, be enthusiastic when you talk to them. Enthusiasm is contagious – you can’t help but get excited when you’re around others that are excited….Energy is created by enthusiasm but many speakers don’t realize what enthusiasm is all about. Enthusiasm is a genuine interest in and passion about the topic you’re speaking about….if you don’t genuinely feel it, the audience can tell. Enthusiasm really needs to come from the heart to be effective - James Feudo.
I love Feudo’s use of the word “passion”. Passion takes the listener beyond merely enjoying what’s being said, towards a much deeper, emotional connection. Passion is primal, it is raw and it cannot be faked. The more passionate a speaker is about their topic, the more contagious will be their enthusiasm.
Speaking Proudly – Let Your Passion Show!
So how can Project Leaders tap into this and speak with passion?
Of course, it is much easier to get passionate about a topic that one is genuinely interested in. But how about something dull like a Project status report or a discussion on user acceptance test outcomes? Zzzzzz.
In these cases, the speaker needs to make a real effort to prepare beforehand, focussing on their presentation style as much as the content of their speech. Try these tips:
- Get excited about the opportunity to present presentation – use it as a platform to drive an advantage for your Project, present your work to a wider audience, enhance your brand or reputation amongst your peers
- Find a single aspect of your presentation that you enjoy above all others and build the message around that focus
- Focus on the benefits that your presentation will deliver to yourself or your team – an enhanced reputation, higher profile amongst the organisation, additional resources, increased business priority
- Think about the benefits that your presentation will deliver to the audience – reflect on the real and positive difference that your Project will make to the jobs or lives of your audience members
I also love another idea that Feudo alluded to – that enthusiastic speakers create an emotional connection with their audiences. What a powerful image to reflect on.
The best way for the audience to pick up on a certain emotion is for the speaker to feel it – very simple. If the Project Manager feels genuine excitement when talking to an audience of senior stakeholders, then it will be much easier for the audience to share that sense of excitement. Authentic emotion will show in the speaker’s voice, body language and language. Consider a Project Manager making a case to the Steering Committee for additional funding to complete a functional change – the audience will be more excited at the prospect of spending the additional money if the speaker is excited about the benefits arising from the change – the improved processing efficiency, more detailed management reporting or the prospect of improved benefits realisation.
Let Your Emotion Come Through
Let’s think about how to let the emotion in your voice come through.
Have you ever noticed that when someone is really excited about the topic they are discussing, their voice changes?
Really effective speakers will use this to their advantage – they will start with an even tone and cadence, then as they reach the part they want to emphasise, they start to speak faster and with a progressively higher pitch. It’s worth re-emphasising that point – effective speakers don’t jump from slow to super-fast speech, but rather they start slow and steady, then pick up the pace as they approach the part that they want the audience to get excited about. They let their emotion come through by building up to a point that they are particularly passionate about.
A couple of other tips that allow the speaker to emphasise the emotional impact of their presentation:
- Choose your words carefully – plan ahead and speak with words that emphasise the your passion
- Pause for emphasis or to give your audience some time to ponder a point
- To emphasise a point further, step up your gestures and body language to match your pace
Does Self-Consciousness Hold You Back?
Finally, let’s talk briefly about our instinctive leaning towards self-consciousness and the way it inhibits us from speaking with passion, emotion and contagious enthusiasm. Jim de Piante eloquently points out that self-consciousness is the key inhibitor to speaking with enthusiasm.
The biggest inhibitor to sharing enthusiasm is self-consciousness. Therein, I believe, lays the great secret to effective public speaking. Public speaking is a giving act. You are giving of yourself – your insights, your experience, your enthusiasm, your knowledge, your stories, your being. The effective speaker is fully tuned in to the people he or she is speaking to – fully conscious of their presence, their reaction, their needs – fully other-conscious. This leaves no room for self. No room for self-consciousness - Jim de Piante.
I really like de Piante’s point – the most effective Leaders, the ones that create the most enthusiasm, the ones that build the strongest emotional connection with their audiences are the ones that step outside of their own sense of self and speak directly to their audience. They don’t worry about whether anyone will be interested, or whether they will forget their lines. Instead, they are aware of their audiences and speak directly to their needs.
Is the audience excited about the new product that the Project is delivering? Then the most effective speakers will target that point, emphasising the way it will transform their lives and deliver new opportunities and benefits. They will not focus on the details of a Project Schedule and Work Breakdown Structure, but will speak directly to the needs and concerns of the audience. They will be conscious of the audience, not of themselves. They will channel their excitement, passion and enthusiasm to those points that are of most interest to the audience.
Good luck! Speak loud and proud…get excited. But equally as importantly, step outside of your own inhibitions or self consciousness, know your audience and talk directly to them.