Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Is Theresa May a good speaker ? 5 top things she needs to do to improve her impact.

Theresa May will be our new PM as of tomorrow. So how good is she as a speaker?

There are a number of things you need to be a good speaker.  Here are 5 top things Theresa May needs to think about:

1. Presense - which gives you instant status and impact
2. Balance - you look trustworthy, open and strong
3. Vocal interest - a resonant tone that has a variety of moods within it.
4. Connection - an ability to connect well with people, with peers and with cameras
5. Congruence - everything working together, including your values

I've never met Theresa May but simply by looking at the  recent videos here's my top 5 tips to improve her impact.  Some things are subjective.

1. Presense is about looking confident. It's about having shoulders back, upper body open, your head on straight, not tilted to the side and having energy.  Theresa May needs to work on her shoulders and head placement.  It probably shows how much computer work and reading she's been doing but that doesn't cut it on the speakers stage!  A simple exercise of

a. standing against a wall
b. raising your arms above you and putting the back of your hands and forearms against the wall
c. lowering the arms to 90 degrees
d. repeating two more times

will make big impact on upper body posture.  This open upper body makes you look open and engaging and also helps the voice connect with the breath which makes you have more authority. It's pretty good but needs more work as it causes her chin to jut a bit forward and will affect her breath.

So Theresa doesn't quite have that impact yet but she does bring a lot of energy to her speeches and her posture is pretty good just needs a bit of tweaking!

2. Balance builds your impact. Balance is about your energy not moving backwards away from a camera but looking ready.  It's about looking relaxed and ready - a bit like an athlete. She's nearly there but there's a bit of technique she needs to understand.  If we are balanced people feel comfortable watching you. At the moment she doesn't look comfortable in herself.

I know I teach this stuff but it's important she also uses her own instinct.  This picture shows that she also needs to not listen to so-called experts.  She needs to find her own stance that works for her image. This picture shows her stance is too wide and her energy is on her back foot.

If she can find that balance her authority and gravitas will transcend. 

3. Vocal interest helps us listen.  With radio such an important part of the messages having a powerful, engaging voice is key to being a good speaker. 

Theresa May has a wonderful authority to her voice.  It is in a good register and has lots of professionalism about it. She's good at sounding tough and strong.  On BBC radio 4's "Today" programme interviews she does manage to get variety in he voice.   She has a very articulate face and this shows a gamut of emotions that translate into her voice.  

But her public face is still rather stoic.  However it looks like she's been working on this for some time as many of the photos of her are of her smiling.  This could be good for her image as she still has another side to show us.  A more relaxed possibly even jovial side? One we've not yet seen. The media will probably see her as strong and professional but worry about her charisma.  I believe I've seen  flashes of that charisma.  As she relaxes into the job, she'll be able to demonstrate it. 

So she has a good voice with vocal variety but needs to demonstrate more mood changes. If she gets her body posture and balance right on top of that it will bring more supported breath to her voice which will increase the authority even more! 

4. Connection is Key.  How we connect is, I believe, part of charisma.  This is the most important part I believe for Theresa May.  If you watch the video here: 

you'll see her eyes darting around the journalists.  It's key when doing media interviews to keep eye movements down to a minimum. If you don't it looks like you've not prepared.  I've seen this more than once in interviews with her.  It is key she gets better at controlling her eye movements and making them more specific and considered. 

Connection also happens with hand gestures.  Having our hands in the middle of our bodies and using them to talk can also help make our voices more engaging.  Theresa May has obviously been given this note and is using it very effectively. 

So more focus connection is needed. 

5. Congruence.  Everything needs to work together.  Everything she does needs to back up who she is, what she believes in and how we interpret her.  She needs to show us her values.  At the moment she exudes professionalism, strength and possibly a bit of vulnerability in her body language. This duality is important to iron out so people feel comfortable with who she is.  

A lot of people talk about the important of them feeing comfortable in their own skin and that is important but we also have to make others feel comfortable and sometimes that means changing how we do things. 

Theresa May isn't quite congruent in how she portrays herself yet.  However all these things can be ironed out and improved.  Nothing is tricky. All can be achieved.  She has great energy in her voice and how she stands. She has authority and depth in her voice with tonal variety.  She looks professional and strong.  

To be a great speaker means getting the small things right.  If she has the right support I'm sure she can do this over the coming months. 

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