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On Stage: Speaking with Passion and Conviction

Posted on Mon, Jun 2, 2008

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By Suzanne Bates

Excerpt from Motivate Like a CEO: Secrets to Communicating and Driving Strategy Forward

It was a workshop like none other. Roger Nierenberg, a conductor who had enjoyed a distinguished career at the helm of two American orchestras, walked his audience through lessons in leadership. We were invited to sit right in the orchestra pit next to musicians and were instructed to watch and listen from the musician's point of view.

At one point, he comically walked away from the stage and instructed the orchestra to play without him. They did a pretty good job. "Scary, huh?" he said. Yet, when he came back to the podium and took up the baton, directing with intention and intensity, he brought from that same group a peak performance. The musicians produced a far richer sound, a more cohesive piece with perfect interplay between the musical sections. This performance moved almost every audience member to tears. A few were actually sobbing.

Sitting no more than five feet from the conductor I experienced the importance of this emotional intensity to the orchestra's performance. Energy radiated from every part of his body and through his baton. I could see how powerful and passionate the conductor had to be to bring out the best in each musician. It was clearly analogous to how a leader who wants to motivate and inspire others must be on stage. You must be able to communicate energy, enthusiasm and passion for the people and the message.

In order to communicate feelings you have to feel them, while you're on stage. This means getting in touch with those feelings before you begin your presentation. You aren't going to be successful in connecting people to the mission if your presentation is all facts, figures and logic. Leaders know that to inspire others they must connect through both logic and emotion.

People often talk about how they wish their leaders demonstrated more passion. In a survey of 157 managers and employees, one told us, "If a leader isn't passionate about the strategy he/she wants others to follow, then the results will be marginal and difficult to measure." "Good communication skills and passion create something intangible that drives an organization forward," said another.

It Comes From Within

People know when your emotion is real and when it isn't. If you don't feel it from within you won't be able to communicate it to your audience. Remember, just like Nierenberg, you are communicating all the way to the back of the room. It has to be big and bold; not overly dramatic, but large enough that people really get it. You need to radiate that sense of purpose in order for people to believe it.

You may need to dig deep to find the emotions you want to convey them to the audience. Many of us divorce ourselves of emotions when we walk on stage. Either because we feel nervous, or because we don't think it's appropriate, we go into "business" mode.

Business speaking is not the same as a theatrical performance; however, there is more than a dash of performance art to it. We can all learn from the great Method actors; they don't pretend; they draw on their personal experiences to find the emotion for the performance. Transport yourself back to the moment and feel the feelings you felt then. This is how to be convincing on stage. You don't need to "act" so much as just convey the actual emotion you feel.

This article is an excerpt from Motivate like a CEO: Secrets to Communicating and Driving Strategy Forward, by Suzanne Bates, release date from McGraw Hill to be announced!

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