Cheryl Dolan


Platinum Presence: Master Your Non-Verbal Communication

Key Takeaways

On presence:

Presence is the way we show up in the world. It can be very positive, and it can also be exactly the opposite. But we always have a presence wherever we go. People always notice it. The nonverbal language that we give off, the body language, the gestures, the facial expressions, actually tells more about us than the words that actually come out of our mouth.

So two conversations are always going on, the nonverbal and the verbal conversation. The nonverbal happens about a split second before the verbal conversation. If these are not lined up, if what your body is telling everybody isn’t matching what your words are saying, people are going to be confused, and you never, ever want to confuse your audience, unless that’s your intention.

On being authentically charismatic:

I do believe there are a few people walking around on this earth who are innately charismatic. That said, it is absolutely possible to be charismatic in your own way. I think where people get in trouble is everyone thinks there’s one way to do it, and they try really hard. A lot of public speaking programs will actually tell everyone to do the exact same thing.

Then what happens is, people start multitasking, because it’s not them. They’re not bringing forth their innate authentic presence. They’re trying to mimic someone else. So their body language is not authentic, and it totally betrays them instead of actually really helping them.

On bodily, mind and emotional preparation:

A lot of people try to wing it, and there may be like one or two percent of the population that really is better doing that. Most of us need to be prepared. The other thing is then we have to organize and prepare our central nervous system. It’s body, mind, and emotions. It’s the emotions that actually run away and take us somewhere right as we’re about to walk up on the stage.

Squeeze a ball really hard in the palm of your hand, and your heart rate drops immediately. You can do this when you’re walking in the building. Just squeeze really hard. Once your heart rate drops down, you’ll start breathing much more deeply. When your heart rate goes up, we start breathing from here, and we get fight or flight, because we’re supposed to get out of there.

We’re not supposed to think and reason. We’re supposed to go. So you want to drop the heart rate down. Breathing is the number one easiest, simplest thing, and you have to do it anyway, so you might as well make it work. So deep belly breathing. You put your hands below your belly button, and when you inhale, you expand, like you’re filling a huge, huge tub of air.

Voice is king:

 Your voice is probably the number one thing—even though you can hear it, it’s still considered nonverbal language. People respond to voices more than anything else, unconsciously. So if they hear a voice that sounds scary, that sounds nervous, higher pitched, weak, or even frenetic, frantic, unconsciously they’re saying, “Something is wrong.”

Unconsciously, they think it doesn’t—“I’m not staying here. I don’t like this.” We’ve all heard voices that feel like fingernails scratching on the board. So deep breathing like that fuels your instrument. Basically, our voice is an instrument, a stringed instrument. So breathing, again, simple, easy, and you have to do it.

Present, Don't Question

There are things you can do with your voice in terms of rate and pitch and inflection that can be powerful to deliver one specific point, where you may pause, and then you may raise your pitch, and then you drop it, and you stop. It can be very powerful.

What’s not powerful is the question mark at the end of every single sentence. Do you know what I’m saying? When I tell you this—and people just go, “No, not listening to that anymore.” It’s really a habit right now, and you’ll hear it. If you just go out on the street today, you’ll hear this everywhere. It really loses the perception of power, and people don’t listen anymore.

The Trust Plane:

So there are different planes of the body that actually correspond to different emotional responses. Typically the place that is most recommended is somewhere between the waist and the shoulders, which is the trust plane, it has been called. When you’re speaking to people and you’re using your hands from somewhere in here, especially if you’re reaching out towards them, palms up, either facing each other or facing the audience, you are now involving them.

You’re talking to them and you’re bringing them in. Your hands are here, and they can see that you have no concealed weapons, which goes way, way, way back to when you pulled into the king ’ s castle and everyone had to make sure that you weren ’ t concealing weapons. Also, it’s comfortable. The word I’m trying to say is you want to use your hands as visual aids.

So by using very specific, very controlled movements, pulling people in, making a point, your hands are actually helping people understand you.

 Before you get on stage:

Back up before you get on the stage. We talked about breathing. It always works. It always cuts the adrenaline. Again, you’ve got to breathe anyway, so use deep, slow breaths. Even three in a row before you walk into a room will change your body language. It will change your posture.

It will change your brain, so that you can think, especially before an interview, as you're right outside the door and you know you’re walking in. Three deep breaths calm you down.

What does it mean to speak like a pro?

It’s to be yourself, but to be your best self. We’re always public speaking, always, unless we’re home alone. You’re always public speaking. How do you show up best in the world? How does your audience then perceive you? Self-awareness really is the key to that. So I would say speaking like a pro you need to be incredibly aware of every move you make, all the words you say, not in a way of self consciousness, but in a way of really empowering yourself to have a lot of influence and impact.


Top Tips:

Inhabiting your body is really important. If people really want to develop presence, number one, I say engage in some kind of regular physical practice. So aerobic activity is really important, because it really burns off a lot of the stress and adrenaline that we have.

But it also gives that input to your joints. That, again, going back to proprioception, it lets your body know where it is in space.

I also highly recommend yoga. You know about yoga. Meditation practices, practices that bring you back to focus and to quiet, so that when there is space and there is quiet, that’s really comfortable, and you know where to move from there, instead of panicking because it got quiet.

Interactivity. Engage the audience. You have the first 30 seconds really to engage them, and then you’re going to lose them after that. So even if the rest of your presentation is not that great, if you get them right in the beginning with some interactive exercise, with a total silence and eye contact, with music, with some kind of an interactive activity that they’re not expecting, you’re going to pull them in.

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