Energy – Are you Missing this Vital Element for Speaking Success?Sarah Denholm
Having enough energy when presenting to carry your audience along with you – and get your message across – is a vital part of being a good presenter. I believe this is one reason why people are so often afraid of public speaking: because they know, even subconsciously, that they’re ultimately responsible for the energy in the room and they have to lead it – and that’s a real challenge if you’re not comfortable with speaking to groups. The audience takes their cue from you: why should they respond and care about your presentation if you don’t seem to?
I’m not talking about being inauthentic though – having energy as a speaker is all about being yourself but deliberately amplified (and appropriate to audience and room size). So until you can get your energy under conscious control, you’re not going to be as good a presenter as you could be.
Unless your nerves have shot you into an extreme hyped-up zone, you’re always going to need more energy than you think. Clients are often astounded when I ask them to speak with energy, then video them and they look and sound flat and listless: they thought there was vibrant projection happening, but it just didn’t come across to the group, or fill the space, effectively.
Having enough energy is something I really struggled with at the start of my speaking career. I’m not naturally a high-energy person, and I’m an introvert. When I started out, I knew I had a message I really wanted to share: about finding and committing to your own voice, and my goal was – and still is – to enable clients to believe in their own speaking ability. But I didn’t know how to get my message across in a dynamic way; I still enrolled clients and did ok, but I knew that energy was the missing piece – I had to really work at it, test out different ideas, and learn through frustrating trial and error what works; I’m going to share one of this distinctions with you today.
By the way, you might also define energy as ‘enthusiasm’ or ‘passion’ – I prefer ‘energy’ because some clients struggle with the idea of presenting with passion (“It’s just not my style!”) or enthusiasm (“I can’t come across as enthusiastic about this topic, I’m talking about banking and I’ll look ridiculous!”). But using energy to connect with your audience makes sense to every client when we discuss it: we’ve all sat through droning, uninspiring speakers and it’s not useful!
Why don’t people speak with energy? You won’t speak energetically if you’re afraid and retreat into your shell as protection; if you don’t know your topic well enough (it will be tied up in trying to think what comes next, and not being ‘found out’ by the audience). You’re also unlikely to have enough energy if you read off slides.
Where does yours come from? You get your energy from three main sources:
1. Who you are. You’re naturally an energetic person, lively and perky about most things
2. What you know. You’re a subject matter expert who loves your topic and could talk endlessly on it
3. What you’re creating. You connect with your audience’s goals, and the impact you’ll have on them: what they’ll do differently or how their perspective will shift as a result of what you’re telling them
4. And there’s an extra element that comes into play too: Focus and pride on getting your message across well to your audience. If all else fails, use this one to help you turn up the dial.
Action step: ask yourself, where does my energy come from? And if the dial’s not turned up high enough (ask friends or colleagues to be honest with you if you’re not sure, or get someone to video you), then dig deeper and find something to give you an energetic edge. Then really focus on it during your rehearsal and delivery.
In a future article I’ll suggest some specific ways to ramp yourself up, but I’m sure you can think of some of your own (I also talk about this topic in a past article on getting past low energy here).