You need to develop increasingly sensitive radar to know how you’re coming across while you’re performing.

Here’s the fourth post of 5 that I’m doing on the book “Verbal Judo – The Gentle Art of Persuasion” by George J. Thompson, Ph.D.

Right out of high school I started a few rock bands. We were very fortunate to have started right after Napster broke, but before digital downloads and streaming music killed the industry that would support live local acts.

In preparing for shows I’d mime the performance in front of a mirror, plan out my show attire, run through the entire set at least 3 times, and make sure all of my gear was ready and in good working order.

The goal of any performer is to constantly be aware of how you are coming across. You have to constantly stay open to the feedback from the audience. You are constantly checking your expectations of the reactions you will get against the actual reactions you are getting from the audience. Then you internalize your findings and regroup.

Today I wanted to apply that mentality to the art of performing in business. In this post I wanted to highlight Thompson’s take on being aware of yourself while you’re performing.

“A mediocre idea brilliantly presented often gains acceptance, whereas a brilliant idea badly presented often dies in birth. Your success with your children, your spouse, your employees, and the public hinges on how you come across.” – Thompson

Are you aware of how you are coming across? Why do you think dance studios have a mirrored wall? Why did Travis Bickle stare himself down in his apartment mirror in the film “Taxi Driver?” We all want to see how we are seen by others. If you forget this, you will be sending out the wrong messages.

“Whether you’re speaking to a roomful of citizens, a city council of eight, or just one disgruntled customer, you are onstage. You are playing a role before others, and you should be aware of the dynamics of each situation. For example, when I teach I often suddenly pull a camera out of my bag and point it at the students. Immediately the room changes. Everything becomes still and silent, and then there’s some nervous giggling, people looking down, others warily looking at the camera, wondering what I’m doing with it. Think of yourself as that camera. As you enter a scene, it changes. You can make two assumptions right off the bat. First, people will always see differently than you. I don’t care whether you’ve been married two or twenty years, your spouse does not think the way you do. The moment you begin to believe that he or she does, you’re headed for problems. Never assume people are going to agree with you 100 percent.” – Thompson

And now an extra pep talk on preparing for speeches:

“How he sees himself, remember, is not as important as how he’s seen. If an audience thinks you’re boring, you are. If an audience thinks you don’t know what you’re talking about, you don’t. You’ve got a problem. You’ve failed to perform in such a way as to get their attention. More than likely you failed to analyze in advance who those people really are, what they might think, what they might anticipate, what their objections might be. If you had, then as you entered the scene your walk and your voice would have appropriately matched their needs.” – Thompson

I hope this helps you stay tuned to how you are coming across in professional settings. Got any questions about keeping your social radar attuned? Email me!



Author: David Neely

Professional Software Developer. Technology and Web Coordinator at the University of Hawaii's Manoa Career Center.