“You’re tip-toeing, big man. You need to strut.”

-Tony Stark, The Avengers

Session 5 In The Dale Carnegie Course Is About Unleashing Our Communication Potential

Just last week, I participated in Session 5 of the Dale Carnegie Course. We started the session with a warm up exercise called The Box Factory. Then we coached participants on delivering a presentation where they had to exaggerate their gestures.

In fact, they had to go beyond exaggerated gestures and show us what they were talking about. They had to physically act out the experience rather than just tell us about it.

In the second part of Session 5, participants leveraged their emotional resources to energize the delivery of their presentations. They had to speak passionately about something that was important to them. This “something” could have influenced their thinking or played a part in forming their beliefs. But they had to speak with passion and conviction, and they had to root their presentation in an incident.

While coaching session, I noticed something about my participants’ presentation style that made me reflect on the nature of this session. I realized why we’re there to coach participants and help them move beyond their accustomed behavior.

After watching the participants deliver their presentation, I noticed that all participants constrained themselves to a “small box” during their talk. They kept their arms within a certain area, stiffened their bodies, and restricted their movements. However, the assignment called for participants to move about unencumbered with big, exaggerated, and even wild gestures. There were no stated requirements holding them in this “box” except the ones they brought with them in the form of personal perceptions, rules, and beliefs.

And I thought to myself, “Now this is interesting”.

Test Your Constraints – What’s Keeping You From Delivering An Outstanding Presentation?

When we deliver a presentation to an audience, our perception of our capabilities is our primary restraint. We communicate to the audience in a way that we are accustomed to and we refrain from exploring the entire dynamic range of our skills and abilities.

We don’t do what is effective, we do what makes us comfortable. As a result, we are ignorant of the impact we can have on our audience if we really flex our “behavioral muscle”.

We user our own perceptions and past experiences to create an invisible box that constrains our communication effectiveness.

What we need is to have the wisdom to recognize that our invisible box exists, the flexibility to free ourselves from its constraints, and the courage to leave it behind.

This is the essence of session five. It provides us with a laboratory to analyze and break our own mental perceptions, the mental jail cells that constrain us. In this session, we get an opportunity to move physically outside our perceived bodily constraints to explore more of our capabilities. And we get to move beyond our emotional constraints to explore who we really are and what we stand for.

Five Ideas To Enhance Your Communication Effectiveness

Here are 5 tips for anyone wanting to break their restraints during this session:

Public Speaking Tip 1: Move your arms starting from your shoulders

When I see speakers restraining their gestures from their elbows to their hands, I’m reminded of those old westerns where the hero is tied up with the rope around his chest and upper arms. But his hands are free from the elbows on down, allowing him to escape with just enough effort to provide some suspense. Be that hero today. Remove the perceived constraints that are pinning your upper arms against your chest and start using everything at your disposal.

Public Speaking Tip 2: Raise your hands above your head

Make sure that the people in the back of the room can see what you are doing. That’s not possible if your hands can only move from your chest down to your waist. Remember that big, exaggerated movements make big impressions. Our classroom is a laboratory where you get to experiment and try new stuff. This is not the place to practice constraint and control. To quote a passage from Tom Peter’s book Re-Imagine, “If you only dip your toes in the water, why should you expect splashy results?”

Public Speaking Tip 3: Use your instructor or coach as a mirror

That is why they are there.  Let them help you move beyond what you are accustomed to doing to do what you are capable of doing.  And if you happen to be performing in public, draw feedback from the audience. Watch them, know when you start to lose their attention, and take action to bring them back.

Public Speaking Tip 4: Base your presentation on an incident, event, or memory

As Tony Robbins stated, the way to reconnect and channel your raw unbridled passion is to “get back in the kitchen”.  You must step into the event and relive it as it happened. When you can get access to that state, you have access to the emotion and power that you had when the event occurred. Trust me, that passion and emotional impact will come through in your talk.

However, when delivering your talk, maintain control by how you access your memory or event. Some people will briefly disassociate (or step outside of the incident and look at it as if it were happening on a tv screen or a movie screen) in order to maintain control. Others will briefly blur their view of the event to throw themselves out of the incident. Still others will quickly step back, as if they are physically stepping out of the event before jumping back into it. There is no “right” way to control the flow of the incident. For you, there is only your way as long as you remember not to let the event get control of you.

Maintaining control over how you access that incident allows you to control the energy and the pace of the delivery. Besides, you have to come out of the incident occasionally to check on your audience. Make good use of your “out of the experience” time to check your audience and insure that they are with you before getting back into the incident.

You’ll find additional useful memory hacks in this post on memory recall.

Public Speaking Tip 5: Be flexible and ask “What if…”

Participants in Session 5 can get loud and rambunctious, probably because business people are trained to show restraint and control. So when a participant gets an opportunity to cut-loose, they get drunk on the experience. Once you’re drunk on the experience, you lose your ability to choose your outcomes.  And when that happens, the experience has control of you.

Remember that the Dale Carnegie course is a laboratory for you to conduct your communication experiments. You are in control of the experience. Don’t let the experience control you. Ask questions: What if I started in a loud booming voice and then dropped to a quite, intense voice?  What if I started with quiet intensity and gradually built to a fiery crescendo? Realize that if you “get stuck” at one intensity level or if you get lost in reliving your story, you don’t learn anything. Always keep some physical movement, a sensation,  or an item that you can trigger as your emergency out. Above all, remain flexible and learn from your observations.

Final Presentation Note On The Box Factory

As I reflect on Session 5 of the Dale Carnegie Course, it’s fitting that we start with The Box Factory exercise. It’s a journey through an imaginary factory where we find containers of all sizes.  However, containers ultimately limit our growth. The enclosures will come tumbling down around our heads when adequately examined and tested. Our goal should be to challenge them and make them vanish until we are free to explore our true potential.

For additional ideas on public speaking and communication effectiveness, get a copy of Maximum Impact, my latest collaboration with Paul Bagan on presentation skills and tactics.

Maximum Impact Public Speaking and Presentations