Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

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.

Conversational speaking

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.

Abandon officialese

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.


About Michael Brown

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Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

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