The overlooked quality that turns good speakers into great speakers

AlexiaCareer Advice, Public Speaking

I recently was considering an opportunity to support a thought leader with a launch. In addition to determining whether I had interest in the content of her offering, and the time to dedicate to the promotion, I also needed to suss out whether or not the opportunity would appeal to my audience.

(In case you haven’t noticed, I’m very choosy about what I do and do not promote. If I’m not a 100 percent yes, I’m a no.)

In the end, I passed on this promotional opportunity.

And while I do have a lot on my plate, my time (or lack thereof) wasn’t the main reason.

I passed because I realized this person, despite her brilliance, and despite her notoriety, isn’t somebody who projects a lot of warmth.

While I feel very blessed to have received many compliments from my audience members and clients through the years, the most frequent one is some version of: Lex, thank you for being so warm. For seeing and accepting me. For sharing your light and helping me reconnect to mine.

When I think about the qualities of transformational speakers, I often go to the obvious ones.

Evocative storytelling.

Powerful questions.

Vulnerability and audacious truth telling.

But, when I think about the speakers who not only unlock something within me, but who also make me feel as good about who I currently am (as they do about who I am in the process of becoming), warmth is center stage.

While it’s easy to see warmth as something subjective, or innate, and certainly some people are wired to be more warm than others—here are 3 simple and effective techniques for you to bring more warmth into your speaking (and into all of the ways you serve your people).

  1.  Bring your audiences into your stories without making them feel that you are. This might sound complicated, but it comes down to two principles. First, and simplest, find moments to let your audiences think about how your stories relate to them. Second, when you do so, use different phrasing each timeso it doesn’t feel like a gimmick. One time you might say: Can you relate? The second time you would want your question to feel different. For example: What would it feel like for you to have that kind of unshakeable confidence in your ability to achieve your dreams? (Sidebar: I loathe motivational speaking and selling teachings that are super obvious on the audience engagement side. Like when a speaker does the same kind of call and response throughout a presentation. Or repeatedly asks: Do you want me to show you how? And then “goes in for the sell.” Hence, my recommendation to bring your people in via different phrases and questions.)
  1. Strategically interject folksy words and phrases. Note: This is not about dumbing down. It’s about realizing that it’s easier for someone to connect with you when you don’t sound like a NASA scientist or GRE practice exam, and rather, like a long-lost friend.
  1. Use a filter question to check-in with your warmth. A question I constantly ask myself: Am I showing up as someone I would want to give a hug to? And if not: What would make me more huggable? Now, a good percentage of my speaking opportunities are in front of corporate audiences. Nonetheless, I still want to be hug magnet—even if nobody in my audience would dare hug me in front of her (or his) co-workers. (Although a surprising amount do!) Hugability is important because if I am really going to be a transformational speaker, versus someone who merely motivates or entertains, I must create an environment where people feel nurtured, supported, and safe. And when I know I am warm enough to hug, I know I’m creating these conditions.

Are there particular qualities you crave in the speakers and thought leaders you follow?

Please take a moment and share in the comments below.