W.C. Fields once said, “Never follow kids or animals on stage.”  Sage advice for any public speaker, unless you are Cesar Milan, aka, the Dog Whisperer.  I had the pleasure of seeing Cesar on stage a few days ago.  He didn’t “follow” an animal on stage, he actually co-presented with Junior, his Blue pit bull. That’s Junior in the photo on the right.

As the show started, the audience didn’t know whether to watch Junior or Cesar. I think we all missed the first few minutes of Cesar’s talk because we were fascinated by Junior’s behavior – walking to the very front of the stage and sniffing the first row of audience members, following Cesar back and forth trying to figure out if he had a job to do.  But then he settled down and took a nap, and all eyes turned to the pack leader. And it was worth it.  Cesar not only provided many lessons for dog owners, but he also put on a clinic for how to be a kinesthetic speaker.

Kinesthetic speakers go beyond killer PowerPoint slides and great stories.  They don’t rest on their verbal skills or their perfect pacing. They use their entire body to make a strong connection with their audience.  And that’s what Cesar did.  In the span of 75 minutes, he mimed a cat cleaning its fur, a human trying to make a puppy sit, a Rottweiler checking out its new home, and a fearful canine trying to hide from the world.  And because of his physical delivery, his words were more powerful – and memorable.

Here are a few tips for anyone wishing to be a kinesthetic speaker:

  1.  You Need Your Hands.  Hands-free communication is not just a new law regarding the use of cell phones while driving; it’s a requirement if you want to add physicality to your delivery.  Holding notes holds you back.  Gesturing is essential to making that deeper connection with your audience.  You can still have notes, just not in your hands. Place them nearby so you have access to them, but don’t let them inhibit your communication.
  2.  You Need to Move.  Presentation coaches have a special term for the primary spot on stage (or at the front of the conference room). It’s called “the magic circle.” The term is intended to convey that a great speaker can do big things when they are front and center.  That’s true, but not sufficient.  Kinesthetic speakers know how to move out of the magic circle and break down the wall between the stage and the audience.  Cesar could not have come any closer to us when he wanted to make an important point.  Most of us increase the space between ourselves and a stranger.  Great speakers decrease it by moving into what psychologists call “personal space.”
  3. You Need to See Your Audience.  If you look down, up, or to the side while you speak chances are good that your audience will start compiling grocery lists in their heads.  Some might even start writing it down.  And you might as well stop speaking.  Eye contact is the equivalent of a 7-iron to a PGA golfer – they’d be lost without it.  You can practice this skill anywhere.  Walk into any superstore and notice how many times people look down or away instead of acknowledging you.  Next, make a point to look the next five people in the eye and say hello.  See what happens.  The more comfortable  you get connecting with strangers, the more comfortable you will be when you want to look directly at your audience.

– Barbara