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Present Like a Rockstar

Present Like a Rockstar

At Video on the Net in San Jose this past March, I was standing beside Brian Conley, the man behind the popular internet TV show, Alive in Baghdad. Brian’s a slender man, with glasses, and comes off as quiet until you know him. Just before going onstage, he turns to me and says, “Do you think they’ll get mad at me if I kick over the podium?”

Presenting can be scary to many people, and for others, it comes quiet naturally, but even the best presenters have to break free from their “tried and true” methods and shake up their audience. You know who understands this very well? You know who can change up their act and get people moving? Rockstars!

Disclosure: I wrote about this way back in February 2006, too. Guess it’s on my mind again.

Make First Contact With Emotions

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When you go to a concert, bands are pushing your emotion button even before they get onstage. When the auditorium goes dark, your heart races a little. When the lights start flashing and the curtain raises, you feel your adrenalin start to flow. All this before the first note of the first song.

In the amazing-yet-simple book, MADE TO STICK, the Heath brothers remind us that pretty much any topic can be discussed from the angle of how it impacts humans. Reach for that. Look for the best way to connect what you’re discussing with the humans in the audience. And use a HUMAN perspective, no matter the topic. Humans are at the root of most things you’re going to present about. Right?

Play Favorites

When a band’s been around a while, they get the benefit of playing audience favorites and still having enough material to stretch their show. What makes playing the favorites so great? People CONNECT to them.

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In your presentation, talk from the perspective of what your audience wants to hear most. Lead with the good stuff. Give them something juicy to think about, and then build on it. Only in fiction (novels, plays, movies) is keeping someone in the dark desirable. In presentations, people need to feel “in” and they want you to let them in right up front.

Kick Over the Podium

Watch any live concert performance and you know when the audience goes CRAZY. It’s when the band moves out into the audience in any manner that breaks the “fourth wall” between band and crowd. When the singer or a guitarist hurls themselves into the fray to connect physically with their audience, it always pays off in even stronger attention. (I was once at a New Year’s gig where The Mighty Mighty Bosstones invited the entire audience up on stage with them. Hazard? Yes. Memorable? YES!)

Unless it’s ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY, get out from behind the podium. Move. If it’s a big venue and you need a mic, ask about wireless way ahead of time. Most professional events will have them. They may not WANT to rig for that, but hey. It’s your presentation. If that’s the hardest challenge you’ll put them through, they’ll be lucky. And once you’re out from behind that podium, what should you do? Make eye contact. Pretend everyone in the audience helped with your presentation, and talk conversationally with them about the points you’re making.

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Wave Those Lighters

Rock concerts are fraught with audience participation. The best of them make the people in the crowd feel like part of the band. The worst make you flip the band the bird. “I can’t hear you” is not audience participation.

Getting your audience to react and act is more than “show of hands” tricks. There are all kinds of ways. A fun one I’ve seen and like emulating is when a presenter prints out nice high-color versions of their slides (should you choose to use them) with numbers on the back (1, 2, 3). Then, when you’re ready for the next slide, get the audience to hold them up and present them. Ask questions that aren’t just hand-waving questions. (Be wary of presentation-hijackers, but otherwise, this makes for good theater).

There are dozens more ways to hack this. Just think it through. How can people interact with your presentation? Do you have data? Is there a physical representation of the data that would look striking in the audience?

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Go Home Singing

After every good rock concert, if you’re like me, you sing badly mangled versions of what you just heard onstage while driving home. Rockstars want that desperately. They want to be in your head after you’ve left them. They want you to carry the experience off to others so they grow their fan base.

Do the same with your presentation. Give people something to remember. Give them a striking visual, an interesting turn of phrase, an emotionally-charged moment that hooks together the entire presentation. The best presentations are the ones people talk about days after the fact. Is that YOUR presentation? Do you give them something to sing?

You’re the Rockstar

I know you. Some of you sell out arenas with your presentations (even if only in your heads). You’ve got better ideas than mine. Why not share them? Fill this comment section with YOUR tips on being a rockstar presenter. Tell me I’m full of crap. Give me an anecdote from the best performance…er, presentation you ever gave, attended, or heard about from someone after the fact. It’s how we grow.

Chris Brogan keeps a blog at [chrisbrogan.com]. He presents at events like Video on the Net and PodCamp

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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