From 1 to 5, where 1 means poor and 5 means exceptional, how would you rate your experience?
Whether it is after a workshop or a movie, you get asked a similar question almost every day. Surveys. Points. Stars. In general, it’s not difficult to decide if an experience was good or bad. Then, when it’s good, we need to determine how good it was. In this situations, sometimes I struggle to decide if it was a 3, barely acceptable, or a 4, good. Instead, in general I don’t have any doubt when it’s a 5: amazing, outstanding, excellent – that’s easy, I immediately feel it. But how? What brings a performance from good to exceptional? Which are the elements that make your performance soar?
The last time I had the feeling of exceptional, I was watching this video on YouTube:
Let’s be honest. I don’t know anything about gymnastics. So, I can’t give any feedback on the technical side of Katelyn’s routine, even if some parts look almost physically impossible. But there is something even more incredible in this performance, that makes it the difference between good and exceptional. Something that we can also apply to our public speaking performances.
Engage, Engage, Engage
I am not the target audience of this video, as I am not interested in gymnastics. So, why was I literally glued to the screen? You can see the reason from 0:23 to 0:30. Katelyn doesn’t just perform the perfect exercise; she never forgets there is an audience around her. Even if she doesn’t speak, she uses her body language to communicate with us: she winks, invites us to clap along the music and join the fun. With the audience located all around the floor, she also has to pay attention and spread the gestures in all directions – not to leave anyone aside.
In public speaking, you have two advantages: you can speak, and your audience is generally sitting in front of us. Still, the tricks used by Katelyn can work also from a stage: eye contact, inclusive gestures and the invitation to participate (raise your hand if you have ever been asked to raise your hand when listening to a presentation). Audience engagement is crucial in public speaking, and I have touched this point more than once in the past – like here and here.
If You Don’t Believe It, Who Will
Even the best performer in the world needs to pay attention when facing a challenging exercise. When her routine requires the highest levels of skills and strength, we see Katelyn takes some moments to focus before getting into the most difficult parts of her routine (see at 0:10 and 1:15). Still, the rest of her performance is full of energy, smiles and fun. The reason why we feel happy and entertained is that she looks happy and entertained. From her facial expressions we see that she enjoys the moment (see 1:10-1:15).
The ultimate goal of your speech is to convince the audience and convey a message. If you look anxious or bored, your feelings will transfer to the people listening. The least you can do to trigger their enthusiasm is to show them your own enthusiasm. If you want them to feel at ease, you should show them that you are at ease. If you are not convinced, passionate and comfortable with your message, how can you expect them to trust you and buy in?
Share the Spotlight
Gymnastics looks like a solitary sport: the athlete is alone on the floor. However, looking at Katelyn’s exercise she doesn’t look solitary at all. Look how her team shows their support, dancing with her from 0:38 to 0:45. Look how, before leaving the floor, she runs straight to her team and greets each and every one of them with smile and energy. She knows the audience is still watching, and I like to think this is why she does it: to give her team the visibility and recognition they deserve for encouraging her.
Likewise, you may be alone on stage, but you always
have a team. Friends and family supported you, mentors gave you feedback,
technicians allowed you to use sound and visual aids that enhanced the impact
of your speech. If the situation allows, why not take some time to thank them
or mention their input? Recognizing the
importance of others won’t lessen our achievement; it will actually show
the audience our real nature, personal feelings and good character. And if the audience likes you, they will also
like your performance better.
The difference between good and exceptional is often the difference between being forgotten and being remembered. It is the peculiar feeling that your performance raises in the audience. It is the reason why you can’t stop watching Katelyn Ohashi’s exercise. In public speaking as in any other audience-related act, your attitude is vital to make your performance soar above the average level. Engage your audience and they will keep tuned in. Spread confidence and enthusiasm to convince them. And show that you value your team, because it’s also thanks to them if you can enjoy the spotlight. These elements will create the right atmosphere in the room, give the audience a reason to feel a connection with you and make your performance soar from good to exceptional.
(Image by Steve Halama from Unsplash)