July 12, 2010

Don't lose yourself in the adoration of the audience

A few weeks ago, I learned a new phrase from the TV show So You Think You Can Dance. One of the judges called Kent Boyd's expression while performing, "hungry jazz face."

The judges' criticisms stemmed from their belief that Kent was too busy playing to the audience and not demonstrating authenticity in his performance.

Nigel Lythgoe said, "You are starting to become a little fake in your performance...you have a magical quality and you love playing to the audience, but if you start faking your performance, that will get you into trouble with the viewers. Please be careful, and don't lose yourself in the adoration of the audience."

Here's the "hungry jazz face," and the performance the judges were referring to.

(Problems with first video? Watch it here.)

Now watch his performance in week 6, below. No hungry jazz face here. Kent has paid attention to the judges' advice, has watched himself back on video (as they all do each week), and has completely immersed himself in the performance, the character, and his relationship to his partner.

(Problems with second video? Watch it here.)

You might say that the two dances were different styles and therefore it was appropriate for him to be less connected to his partner in the first one. You might also say that, as speakers, we don't have a partner and it's ALL about the audience. So what's wrong with playing to the audience?

When we speak, the audience is indeed our partner. As a speaker, you are in a unique position where you are performing for your audience while also partnering with them.

On the one hand, you must always be "on" for your audience. This means that, no matter what is going on with you internally, physically, mentally, your external demeanor is all for them. You smile, you interact, you engage them, you keep their attention, you entertain. I don't care if you've got a temperature of 102 -- if you've committed to be there, you perform and you bring energy and enthusiasm to the room or you suffer the consequences.

On the other hand, you are also in an authentic relationship with them. You must bring your own emotion to the presentation in order to stimulate theirs, and you must be real with them, or they will disconnect from you. You must read them and understand where they're coming from. How are they reacting to you? Are you getting through? Are you reaching them? You won't make this connection if you are not authentic and heartfelt.

What concerns the judges in Kent's first performance is that it's all entertainment and not enough engagement. He brings the energy but not the presence. He's more concerned with being liked by the audience than with making a real impact.

In the second dance number, you see that he's got the energy, the presence, and the authenticity and, while this number is not about his relationship with the audience, the audience cannot look away. The audience cannot disconnect, because his performance is so real.

How can you be more real for your audiences?

How can you stop focusing on their adoration and instead offer true inspiration?

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