The Party Line is not enough

2 March 2015, Blog

PR specialists are adept at crafting messages and turning them into words but it’s all in the delivery – so often the non-verbal signals become the message. Jo Ouston, a specialist in the behaviours associated with leaders, explains all.

When business leaders or politicians are under the spotlight – for example in public statements or TV debates – it is very often their personal presence that attracts comment and discussion.

At the end of the day, we judge whether people are trustworthy by their personal presence and behaviour. Is there congruence in what they think, what they say and what they do?

Whenever people seem to be spouting a party line they come across as bland, mechanical or lacking integrity – we find ourselves unimpressed, indifferent and unmoved.

Lynne Featherstone picked up on this after the European elections when she said “I think that all of us have got to the point where we are so guarded, so on-message that we seem to have lost some of our humanity” 

Professionalism and polish is essential for those in the public eye – they need to be able to get to the point and say what they want to say clearly and concisely. (An artless, unfocussed speech – however ‘genuine’ – is usually tedious and simply will not be heard.)  We need both head and heart.

Presence and polish

While we can all think of people that we consider to have great presence, it is not so easy to identify the specific elements that give rise to it or to say how others could also achieve it.

For me it comes down to the difference between ‘doing something different’ and ‘being something different’ … and that will always be specific to each individual.

People with personal presence who are persuasive and inspirational are not ‘doing a show’ or putting on an act.  Rather they are comfortable being themselves while fulfilling their role.

How can we do this too?  I think there are two golden rules that can help.

Doing what comes naturally                                                     

We all have our own natural ways of communicating that we use every day. The trouble is that we get derailed by new situations or when under pressure so that we suddenly forget how to do things that are second nature or we try too hard.  We fumble the occasion.  We leave a meeting thinking ‘why did I ramble on that last point’ or ‘I completely forgot to mention xyz …’

To be more truly to ourselves and perform at our best, we need to manage ourselves.  We need to control our physical state so that we can be alert and aware of what is going on inside us and around us. If we are calm, ‘centred’ and breathing properly, with the brain well oxygenated, we can think clearly. The ideas flow, we are more articulate and find the right answers when interrogated.

Thinking of others

The other thing we can do is to focus on others rather than worrying about ourselves.  If we are too self-conscious or busy thinking about what we want to say next, we are not really listening.  We miss useful information and non-verbal cues coming from our stakeholders or other audiences.

Applying these principles enables us to take on any challenge.  We see how our message is going across so we can adapt if necessary and we have greater flexibility to deal with whatever is thrown back at us.  And because we are natural, under control and engaged, we attract the trust of others.


JBP Staff Member

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