How to Show Warmth to Any AudienceSarah Denholm
How can we deliberately show warmth to any audience?
Or to a person we’re about to communicate with 1:1? No matter what sort of a mood we’re in before we speak, or how we feel about that audience? And fast?
I’ve been working with a client this week on exactly this concept. I asked him how he believed he came across in meetings with his team when he opened the conversation – was there any specific process that he followed at the start?
His reply was basically “No process…and how do I come across? It depends on how I’m feeling”.
This is totally normal – and it’s pretty much how most people operate throughout their day when speaking with others. If this isn’t you, then I’m sure you’ve seen it in other people. They just roll from one thing to the next, without being deliberate about any of it.
What they’re feeling in that moment is what their audience gets.
Now obviously there are times when we all put on a show. To impress, or to try and get a specific result or negotiate in a conversation… and then we will be deliberate, and put some thought and effort in. But two things can happen when we do this at times where it’s going against our natural grain:
- For us: it’s a real struggle! We wrestle with our mood, our natural inclination to just go with how we’re feeling.
- For our audience – one person or many: they can tell. We’re still telegraphing how we’re feeling, even though we may be working hard to bury it.
Think of it as ’emotional leakage’ – our micro-expressions (the really fleeting quick flickers of expression we can’t avoid doing), and body-language. Our body language will always telegraph our feelings: and when we’re faced with someone being incongruent i.e. their words don’t match their body language, we believe and trust the body language.
(This is one reason why people in positions of power in an organisation need to be so careful about their moods. Emotional leakage and contagion in the workplace are a big issue. Here’s a Harvard Business Review article talking about the issue.)
So, how do we show warmth to any audience? Quickly and authentically?
I have an exercise for you; and the beauty of it is that you can test this exercise anywhere: with family, socially, 1:1 at work, or with a group.
Creating internal warmth
Let’s break it down into parts one and two:
Part one – before the event
Think about a person/pet whom you care about. It might be your child, or your partner or spouse. Or your loved pet. You can even think about an inanimate object if that lights you up; I had one client ask if it was ok to think about her next European holiday! Absolutely: so long as it has the desired outcome.
This effect can take no more than a few seconds – depending on how strongly you were embedded in your negative state: thinking about this chosen focus will brighten your face, soften your gaze, relax your body. Try it now, looking in a mirror, and see how your whole demeanour and energy shift.
Part two – as you begin to speak
Extend goodwill to that audience or person by saying internally to yourself something like: “I’m glad I’m here…I’m glad you’re here”. You can say a version of that aloud to your audience if that’s your style / it’s appropriate. Anything that conveys the sense of being pleased to be there is perfect.
And when we do this, people love it! We’re all crying out for some energy and enthusiasm from our presenters, whether that’s offline or online; it’s engaging and it encourages us to connect with them. Connect with your audience first on a human level before you launch into your content or agenda, and they’ll be much more willing and likely to come along with you for the ride.
Why does this “I’m glad I’m here, glad you’re here” exercise work so well? Because it naturally changes our internal state. It comes authentically from within us: we’re not trying to make an effort and force something onto ourselves that we’re not feeling. You could think of it like this: we’re lit and warmed up from within – because of Part , rather than standing underneath an external beam of light, trying to feel its heat.
So to show warmth to any audience, give this two-part technique a try. I wrote an article where I talk about a similar idea which you might like: it’s about how we make a choice to turn towards or turn away from our audience.