Last week we were exploring what it means to truly connect with an audience. How to use appropriate and relevant “positive” and “negative” emotion to get an audience to experience something. Although I don’t believe emotion is that binary.

Brene Brown calls this being vulnerable. We were running our 3-day retreat for senior executives, in the Surrey countryside.

How do we truthfully connect with an audience?

This morning I woke to a gorgeous sunrise. I read my emails, as the sun was rising over the delights of Wandsworth south London. I noticed an enquiry from someone. It included the phrase, “can you help us build our professional shields.” I gasped.

What is a “professional shield”? Reading the email further I realised it meant; managing our emotions at work. This email, and last week got me thinking; how do we truthfully connect with an audience?

When we create a version of self devoid of emotion, we drive an auto-pilot sense of existence. We stop living. Being vulnerable is who we are as humans. Showing appropriate and relevant emotion helps us connect with ourselves and an audience.

Susan David in her TED Talk – The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage talks about using all our emotions; the “good ones” and the “not so good ones”.

We tend to shut out significant signposts for ourselves and others

When we avoid the negative and only focus on the positive we shut out significant signposts for ourselves and others. Signposts that help us recognise who we are not. And who we are.

From a public speaking perspective, we connect truthfully with an audience when we let go of what we think the audience might be thinking. When we noticing our emotions, and recognising they are not who we are. We can use this new-found awareness to achieve a state of flow. A state of mind where we make better decisions. A way of being where we can find the answers to our questions.

We stop the autopilot behaviour. When we pay attention to our body and how we are communicating, we begin to experience an inner peace. I call it presence. Some call it charisma.

The notion of charisma has fallen into disfavour…

Charisma itself is not necessarily the villain, but narcissistic charisma is. That’s the kind of charisma that allows an individual to sway the masses and stir up followers while maintaining emotional distance or even disdain for those followers.

I can think of a very famous campaign that led to the appointment of a leader of the free world where he most certainly possessed a disregard for the very people who put him there.

But charisma as an element of true presence, of inner peace or flow. Charisma can be a tool for good, as long as other elements are also in place. There must be a congruency between the inner state; the emotions (positive and negative) and the external behaviours.

How do I master charisma and connect with an audience?

Mastering charisma and connecting with an audience requires the meshing together of the inner state – your emotions, driven by your intent – your state of mind, and your external body language.

Think about it. When was the last time you were fully conscious of what you felt (positive and negative) and how you were affecting others in each moment while you were with them? Work on this and the results come.

In front of an audience? Be a version of yourself in that moment. Consciously choose the emotions you wish to show. See what you are doing as a performance; fulfilling a role you are playing, truthfully. A role where you allow your relevant appropriate feelings and emotions to be present.

Here is a practical way you can let go of your professional shield and show relevant appropriate emotion, and truthfully connect with an audience.

The Practice: Circles of Being

Circles of Being is used to master your ability to connect truthfully with an audience. It is a technique used to develop a state of being through which you can influence your audiences’ thinking and feeling without being attached to them. It is an energy which fuels a certain kind of presence – flow.

Next time you are doing a talk, presentation, just going into a meeting, or even having a conversation at home, play around with your personal energy.

Explore the affect you can have on an audience by altering your energy moment-to-moment. See if you can moving through first circle to third circle.

First Circle: Your focus is innermost, it is intimate. I usually reserve this type of energy for one-to-one conversations. Your voice is quiet, and your body is still and unaffected. It is almost as though you are speaking personally to yourself. First Circle can be used to create a sense of curiosity, making it introspective and enticing.

The trick is being able to be in first when in front of a large audience as the expectation is you must be large and out there. Imagine drawing people in, your voice soft and relaxed. I see first as a way of quietly, warmly, and personally bonding with an audience. It is creating moment where you can hear a pin drop.

Second Circle: Your focus is placed outside yourself. You speak to affect others. As a speaker and leader, you require presence; second gives this. It is our most common state. In second, you make a true connection and hold the audience rapt because they know you are truly present and entirely connected to them. However, it can be challenging to stay in second all the time, we’re not the Dalai Lama. So be okay with moving into first and third as appropriate.

Third Circle: You are much bigger, bolder. Your movement is intentionally larger and perhaps audacious. You demonstrate concepts and ideas or stories with grand physical movements, and your voice is congruent to this. There is a self-assuredness in your voice.

Third can become a generalised connection outward but not specifically to a person. When used in large spaces, this can have an impact.

The temptation whenever you speak is to become wrapped up in what you are doing and saying, but your performance takes on a whole different level when you start noticing the affect you have on yourself and the world around you. When you truthfully connect with an audience.

Reflection Questions/Points

  1. What have you noticed about the way you move and use your body?
  2. What have you noticed about the way others use their bodies?
  3. What have you noticed about your personal energy – your presence? How does your ability to alter it feel to you?
  4. What impact has your ability to choose your state of being had on the way you think or feel about yourself?
  5. Where might you use some of this new-found awareness to your advantage when speaking and/or leading a team?