If you haven’t seen the new Star Wars movie yet, don’t worry – there are no spoilers in here. I come from a family of devoted Star Wars fans. We trained for the release of The Rise of Skywalker by re-watching old Star Wars movies. It’s amazing how those Jedis use the Force to move objects without touching them. They project energy to shape the environment around them and sway people to their point of view. One challenge in public speaking, especially if you are speaking on a topic you address frequently, is to make every time sound like the first time. Commit yourself to keeping it fresh and energetic for each audience. As Yoda says, “Do or do not. There is no try.”
Facial Expressions – Your face is the audience’s first guidepost for how they should feel. Is the audience supposed to feel excited, interested, inspired, or enlightened? Bored? Demonstrate your investment in your content through facial expressions. Brighten your eyes for a new idea. Smile for good news. Keep your face serious for bad news. In order to grab and hold the interest of your audience, use facial expressions to take them to a galaxy far, far away.
Hand Gestures – We can’t all use the Force to read minds or call a light saber to our hand at that crucial moment, but we can use our hands to project energy when we speak. According to body language expert Mark Bowden, open-palmed gestures in the plane centering from your navel help emphasize the truth of your words. Gestures emanating from the plane in your chest area demonstrate passion, excitement and energy. Since they can also be seen as aggressive, use gestures in the passion plane wisely. “A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack,” said Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back. Bowden says symmetry in hand gestures helps convey a clear message that is easier for the audience to receive. If you are someone who talks naturally with your hands, that is wonderful. Use your hands to illustrate your words. Do take a look in the mirror to make sure your hands are saying what you think they are saying. Never underestimate the power of the Force.
Vocal Variety – As Qui-Gon Jinn said in The Phantom Menace, “The ability to speak does not make you intelligent.” It also does not make you interesting or compelling. Speak with passion. You care about this topic. You want others to care. Raise and lower the inflection of your voice to match what you are saying. This doesn’t mean loud, necessarily. It means purposeful. Jedis often speak softly when using the Force. When you are preparing, note which words you want to emphasize to convey passion. Make your words sound conversational. Project energy through the emphasis in your voice. As Maz Kanata said in The Force Awakens, “Close your eyes. Feel it. The light…it’s always been there. It will guide you.”
When Obi-Wan Kenobi famously said, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” he used a serene smile, a light wave of the hand, and a smooth, quiet voice. Consider the message you want to convey – whether you are speaking from a podium, a panel, a media interview, your staff meeting, or meeting someone for the first time - and make sure your whole presence reinforces it. Through facial expressions, hand gestures, and vocal variety, you can inject energy and deeper meaning into the message you want to deliver. May the Force be with you.
Ms. Smith founded Spokesmith, a public speaking coaching firm. Her expertise is built on a career in diplomacy and her extensive study of using public speaking, executive presence, and body language to deliver your message. Click here to receive future articles. Click here to read previous articles.