Sunday, January 17, 2010

High-Impact Public Speaking: Taking a Page from Elvis Presley

Take a moment to recall film clips of Elvis performing during the second half of the 1950s, his first years as a rock star. As pointed out by CBS’s Jeff Greenfield in a recent feature honoring the singer’s 75th birth anniversary, what drove Elvis’s audience into a frenzy was not just his voice or his looks, but the way he moved. His entire body seemed to be in motion. In fact, Elvis himself remarked: “I sing with my whole body!”

Public speakers seeking to maintain a tight hold on their audience during the entire length of a presentation would do well to substitute the word “speak” for “sing” in the above quote from Elvis and make it their motto. Indeed, highly effective public speaking involves not just using your voice but also appropriate facial expressions, hand gestures, and movements of the torso (see my post of Nov. 15 ’09). In short, high-impact public speaking means making your entire body animated!

As a public speaking coach here in Houston, I often urge my clients to perform the following "self test": Watch a video clip of your performance with the sound turned off. If you are doing a good job, you’ll be able to discern at which points in the recording you are striving to emphasize a point, for at those moments your whole body--at least the entire upper half--will be in motion. Yes, even with the sound turned off, it will make for fascinating viewing.

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