June 10, 2009

Play big

I met with two clients this week who are both dealing with the same problem: playing small.

Both clients are used to "talking with their hands" in regular conversation, but when they give a presentation, their gestures become restrained and tight. They both have strong voices, but when they speak, their voices become whispery and weak.

To put it plainly, they're holding back. Restricting their movements, pulling back their voices, and making themselves "smaller than life."

The problem is, when presenting, it's usually necessary to be a little larger than life, depending on the size of the room and the number of people. In order to be seen and heard, it's necessary to be a little bigger than you usually are, or risk being visually uninteresting and invisible to the audience.

Making yourself small can also make you seem tentative and lacking in confidence -- and therefore less persuasive and effective in presenting your message.

Even when using a microphone, you still need to project your voice; the microphone makes you louder, but if you're whispering or mumbling, it's only going to magnify your whispering or mumbling.

Practicing "larger than life" can feel awkward, especially when you're in front of a video camera, or talking to the mirror. But it's crucial that, when you practice your presentation, you practice it as though you're speaking in front of the people you'll really be presenting to, in order to get used to being free and open with your voice and body.

If your voice has to carry over ten rows of seats, don't practice as though you're talking to the people in the front row; speak to the people in the tenth row. If your gestures have to be seen in the back of a large room, don't hold back. Open up your body, free your arms to move the way they naturally do.

It's not about forcing your body to do something it doesn't want to do; if you're a naturally reserved speaker, you'll probably have to practice your gestures more for a big audience. But really, it's more about releasing your inhibitions so your body will do what it already does naturally.

Do some relaxation, breathing and grounding exercises before you speak; loosen up your muscles so you don't feel tight and inclined to hold yourself back. Express your natural power and confidence through your voice and body.

What's that? You say you aren't confident? Well, purposeful and strong movements and gestures will make you seem confident! Even more reason to play big!

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2 comments. Please add yours! :

Stevie King said...

I love this post! I can't help but to PLAY BIG! At some point my speaker DNA was equipped with an extra volume knob and high definition body gestures. When I speak in smaller venues or with smaller audiences I often feel like I will be overpowering but after about 20 seconds I can't hold it back.

I just love the messages that I am sending and they don't translate properly if I don't PLAY BIG. When people ask me how I do what I do, I simply tell them to relax and let the speech come alive.

Thanks for the post!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Stevie, I'm the same way. I'd rather speak to a large crowd and be my naturally big self than have to tone myself down for a small room. :-)

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