People pay more attention to you when you do nothing.
If this sounds backwards to you, you’re not alone.
In my time as a public speaking and communication coach, I’ve seen hundreds afflicted by habits that cause them to move their legs, arms, and head in a way that completely distracts the audience from their message.
From politicians to CEOs, people continually wander or shift around when they speak.
This instinct comes from a survival mechanism called ‘fight or flight.’
When you see a group of hungry looking mammals (such as your team or clients!) looking in your direction, your body wants to either leave the situation or attack.
This leads you to step back and forth. The motion may continue for ten minutes or two hours without you even realizing it, causing a huge repetitive distraction for anyone who is looking at you.
In order to truly captivate an audience, you need to practice the art of doing nothing. You need to practice Dynamic Stillness.
What is Dynamic Stillness?
Simply put, Dynamic Stillness is the method of standing in one place while you speak powerfully.
No movement. No distraction. No showiness needed.
You stand still with strong posture, letting your arms, words, face, and voice do the work.
You might think you have to jump around to grab an audience’s attention.
But most of the time, such motion is off-putting. If people aren’t engaging with your ideas, then jumping about won’t help. You need to turn your ideas and data into captivating content and then deliver it with conviction.
Whether you’re hunched over, swaying from side to side, or ambling aimlessly about the stage — battling gravity, essentially — it gives your audience the impression that something isn’t right — that you don’t really know what you’re doing. That you’re overcompensating for a weak message.
Dynamic Stillness, meanwhile, is a tool you can use to avoid giving that bad impression by harnessing gravity to build a presence.
Picture a golfer, gently tapping in the ball to make a tournament-winning putt.
They stand with their feet shoulder-width apart, planted and even. This stance conveys power, focus, control.
The same is true in basketball. When a player gets ready to shoot a free-throw. They get centered, feet apart, breathe, and then make the winning shot.
The impact of using such positioning when addressing an audience is equally powerful.
I conducted a study on non-verbal cues that was featured in the Journal of Psychology. In the study, I found that switching a speaker’s stance to a position of Dynamic Stillness led to an increase in audience confidence of 32%. A third of the group automatically assumed the speaker on stage possessed greater leadership ability, with no other change than to their posture.
That is the power of Dynamic Stillness — and it extends far beyond the stage.
All professions can benefit from Dynamic Stillness.
It was a drama teacher in acting school, in fact, who showed me the power of Dynamic Stillness in performance. During a particularly intense scene, I kept trying to show the emotion. My body tensed, my face distorted, my voice was broken.
“Do less,” my teacher instructed me. With each rehearsal, he would repeat it, “do less.”
Eventually, I got to the point where I was simply saying the words. No flash, no flair. I stood on that stage, repeating lines like they were on the page.
“There you go,” my instructor said.
It’s tempting to think of acting as being more than yourself. People throwing their hands up to the sky in outrage, breaking into melodramatic tears, chewing the scenery. But acting, real acting, is often understated.
Dame Judi Dench once said, “Great acting feels like doing nothing.” In the early days of her career, she was convinced she wasn’t doing enough on stage. She kept her bag packed next to the exit door during rehearsals, worried someone would say, “You’re not doing anything! Just get out, you’re fired.”
Seven Oscar nominations, one win, and dozens of iconic roles later, Judi Dench has made quite the career out of “doing nothing.”
All thanks to her commitment to Dynamic Stillness.
Ultimately, Dynamic Stillness is achieved by proper positioning.
There are three common stances that actively detract from a presentation.
A stance that puts all of your weight on one foot instead of balancing between the two. Though you may think you look casual or relaxed, you’re actually positioning yourself as a pushover. Pushovers get ignored.
After a while, leaning becomes uncomfortable. In an effort to counteract this, people shift their weight from side to side. It may feel comfortable, but all the audience can see is a hypnotic motion that will send them right to sleep.
The James Dean
This is a very common posture in business these days, used to appear ‘too-cool-for-school.’ The feet are planted, but the top half leans back slightly. The James Dean attempts to give off a lack of interest or need for approval. But leaning back forces you to fight against gravity, making you appear weaker.
Avoiding these stances requires you to reset your posture entirely. There are two easy ways to do this:
- Find your center. You’ll need a friend to help you with this: Stand with your feet together. Ask your friend to gently push on your shoulder. You’ll notice how easy it is for them to knock you over. Next, plant your feet so they’re shoulder-width apart. Relax your knees. Have your friend gently push you again. See how stable you are?
- Practice ‘Hands, Heel, Head.’ This is the easiest tool to lift your posture in seconds. While standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your weight centered, allow your arms to hang naturally by your side. Slowly reach your arms out sideways, higher and higher, until they are completely outstretched above your head. Reach up as far as you can. Reach until you’re on your tiptoes. Tilt your head backwards so you’re staring at the ceiling. Once you’ve gone as high as you can go, drop your hands to your sides, then drop your heels to the floor (keeping your body outstretched). Then slowly lower your head back to its center, looking straight ahead.
Just like that, you’re back at a stance of Dynamic Stillness.
And you’re ready to face your audience.
You can find out more by going to http://www.borntospeak.com to get your copy of the new book ‘You Were Born To Speak’, which is filled with proven strategies to help you succeed.