It was a lesson in how to captivate your audience. I was one of 3,000 who went to see the Dalai Lama's latest public address.
How do you captivate 3,000 people all at the same time? To answer that, I'm going to ignore the phrase 'spiritual presence' (and so would he - Buddhism is a philosophy, not a religion). Instead, I want to pick on two things that crop up as deeply significant in my training workshops.
He spoke to us as personally and intimately as if he was chatting one-on-one in front of a fireplace. He said it himself. "I speak to one person... to ten people... to a hundred people... a thousand... it is the same." I wanted to applaud right then, because so many of us become like aliens when we step into the spotlight.
The lesson for speakers? Choose to speak personally, intimately and conversationally, as you would to a single person. Conversationally? With 3,000 people? Yes, it was a conversational tone, even though he did the talking. Use the word 'you'.
Comfortable in his own skin
He clearly knows who he is, flaws and all, and is happy about it. More than that, he's happy for us to see through him. He made mistakes and laughed openly about them! Again, I wanted to applaud, because so many speakers send out signals of reluctance - reluctance to be seen, reluctance to be in our company.
There is no such thing as speaking perfection. Perfection is the enemy of good. Know that you are naked anyway and get into it. Choose to be so comfortable in your own skin that you'll be happy for audiences to see you as you are - not as you supposedly should be. The pay-off is beyond measure; people either don't notice your mistakes, or they don't care.
I can't resist another point. Too many of us speak stuffy officialese to cover for lack of personal authority. The Dalai Lama did not have speaking skills in mind, but his words answer the point anyway: "I am person, just like you. But when I am stress (sic), I think I am Dalai Lama. When I am very stress, I think I am His Holiness. This is very bad." He then laughed out loud, and made it clear that 'bad' meant distance from us.
Officialese is a barrier that disengages you from the audience - it switches your audience off.
I look forward to enjoying the company of the Dalai Lama again. After all, he enjoys mine.