Every presentation can use some rock star swagger, writes Ian Whitworth.
The term ‘rock star’ is pretty overused in the business world. You see job ads for ‘rock star HTML coders’. One I saw today says ‘you are a rock star team player’. That is not how rock stars roll. Rock stars do not sit at desks, wear chinos, or tone down their debauched urges for the good of the team.
But there is much for presenters to learn from rock stars. What speaker doesn’t want an army of adoring fans at their feet, going nuts at every word and gesture? Realistically, you can’t have that, but you can use their techniques to lift your charisma game.
1 Lose The Modesty
Most presenters are quite self-effacing, from nerves and a deep-down belief that they are not worthy. This lack of swagger stops them taking control. Audiences are pretty submissive, and want someone to take charge and tell them what to do.
Robert Forster, ex-front man of The Go-Betweens, wrote of how rock stars work in an excellent essay in The Monthly (Google it, worth a read).
“Despite all the love they get, and the adulation they inspire, there is only one person they truly love. One person and one person only. Themselves.”
Keep telling yourself that you are a genius in your field and that these people need to listen and obey your commands. Try to make yourself 20 per cent more arrogant than feels comfy. Though it goes against the natural Australian urge to not be up yourself, the more self-belief you can summon up, the more they will love you.
2 Dominate The Stage Space
Rock stars are in your face. They spread their arms out wide. They strut around so everyone gets a fair chance to gaze upon their magnificence. They look bigger than they are.
Presenters hide behind a lectern, like a head in a box. This is no way to exert power over an audience. Get out on the stage. Arms out. Move. Make bigger gestures. What feels like a ridiculously over-the-top move is actually barely visible when you’re on a stage.
Making yourself look bigger and more dominant doesn’t just change perceptions of you. It changes your body chemistry, and not in the way that rock stars like to do it. Watch social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on the topic, it’s essential viewing.
3 Show Them That You Love Them
Rock star fans leave the show feeling there was a magical bond between performer and audience. That moment when the singer you adore looked your way and POINTED RIGHT AT YOU becomes a treasured memory.
You can adapt this technique for your presentations. Don’t treat your audience as one solid lump. They’re all individuals. So find someone in the audience who has a friendly face. Lock eyes with them like they’re the only person in the room. Respond to their expressions. Deliver that single point to them with megawatt rock star charisma.
Then move on to someone else and repeat through your whole speech, so you’re developing a rock star relationship with a series of individuals. The rest of the crowd feels it too, because by talking to one person at a time, you avoid getting that blank-faced look that presenters get. You’re making it special.
4 At The Back, In Black
Speaking of rock monsters, notorious industry band AV/DC will be playing its second and final gig at Melbourne’s legendary Cherry Bar as part of the MEA National Conference on April 18. AV people are not generally comfortable at the front of the room, so this will be your last chance to see them in leather pants. Do not let me down. Be there.