Build Your Leaders

Secrets of Powerful Presenters

March 2nd, 2013

Students of my presentation training often tell me one of the “pearls of wisdom” they value most is learning how to distinguish between a performance and communication orientation.

Speakers with a performance orientation view audiences as critics who are judging how they make their presentation. As a result, these presenters become over-focused on their wording and delivery. Presenters with a communication orientation focus on connecting and communicating with their audiences. They look at presentations as conversations, not performances, and enjoy one-to-one, friendly, personal connection with individuals in the audience.

Understanding the difference between hypervigilance and attunement can be as valuable to great communicators as shifting from a performance to a communications orientation.

When we are hypervigiliant, we are constantly looking for signals that we are not loved, appreciated, respected, cared about and helped enough. We are stressed, fearful and anxious, grounded in a flight-or-fight mentality.

Twenty years ago, I was appointed general manager of a large public relations firm and charged with building the Atlanta office. Although I did my best to cover it up, I lived in constant fear I might fail.

Uneasy in my new role, I became hypervigiliant. Something as simple as an employee’s suggestion that we do something in a different way felt like a direct assault on my authority. I heard the employee’s suggestion as a criticism that I was not good enough.

Once I became more self-aware and comfortable with myself and my abilities, I began to operate from a place of attunement. I was more relaxed and receptive. My desire was to know, understand, communicate and connect. I was no longer threatened by suggestions.  Instead, I welcomed them.

When we are attuned, we resonate with ourselves and other people. We seek connection over safety.

To find attunement, we must first be attuned to ourselves. We have to separate our feelings from those of other people. Becoming aware of our bodies helps us accomplish this.

To tune into your body, take a deep breath, release it fully and drop deep inside. Scan your body. Notice what you are physically feeling. Are you tense? Relaxed?  If so where? Just notice, don’t judge.

Monitor emotions, thoughts, judgments, tension and calm. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling now?”

Psychotherapist Charlotte Kasl in her wonderful book If the Buddha Married offers these additional questions to help us be more attuned to ourselves and others:

  • What is going on with me?
  • Am I afraid?  Am I angry?  Am I hurting?
  • Am I calm?  Am I open?
  • Am I really asking for what I want?
  • Did I agree to something that I don’t really want to do?
  • Are feelings of inadequacy or confidence underlying my words?
  • Am I being honest?
  • Is there a more skillful way to handle the situation?

When we think we know what another is feeling it can be valuable to ask if we are projecting our own feelings onto others. Is it us or them who are feeling angry, elated, hurt or content?

The journey toward connection challenges us to become more self-aware. By shifting from hypervigilance to attunement, we own our feelings, become more open and receptive and pave the way for authentic communication.

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