THE COMMUNICATOR Energy is contagious and helps you face any storm
‘HOW do you find your energy?” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked that question. Last Tuesday alone I think I was asked it more than a dozen times.
It was on that day that I was the MC and speaker at Connect17, a conference dedicated to showcasing Ireland to the international business tourism industry — an industry which is a pretty big deal since it brought over €700m to the economy last year and is projected to top €1bn soon.
Another big deal, however, was Ophelia. I was home in Cork when it hit. So, instead of hopping on the train to Dublin on Monday afternoon, as I’d originally planned in advance of the conference, the trains were cancelled.
I spent the afternoon putting towels around our windows to prevent rain from coming in and lighting candles since our electricity was out. Daughter Lulu made a survival kit with flashlights (I know they’re called “torches” round these parts, but old habits die hard), toilet paper, and plenty of snack bars.
As soon as the bars were eaten and AA Roadwatch announced the M8 was reopened, I decided to make the drive alone up to Dublin. Some friends said I was a nutter, but honestly the wind had died down, no trees were on the major roads and I counted only nine other cars the whole way. It was actually quite peaceful. And I simply had to get up for that conference. After I checked into the hotel, I freely admit I had a glass of wine to celebrate my safe arrival.
But on Tuesday morning, the storm’s lingering effects kept some other conference attendees away. Quick-thinking organiser Nicky Mcgrane pushed back our start-time a bit and messaged registrants to please bring their kids along since schools were still closed. It wasn’t surprising, though, that when I finally came out on stage to welcome everyone, the RDS concert hall was not entirely full. But gosh-darnit folks, I had a job to do. I knew how hard everyone had worked to put this together. The speakers and many exhibitors had travelled here in advance and deserved to be celebrated.
So, that’s what I did. I looked out into the hall as if it were packed full of smiling faces! I smiled broadly back and cheerily called out, “Goooooood morning!”
I urged everyone to give themselves a rousing round of applause. “You’re each a symbol of Ireland’s resilience,” I said. I pointed out that they deserved to be recognised for making the extra effort to come in for the event. I swear they clapped extra loudly in agreement.
Next, it was off to introduce the first speaker, Paul Kelly, the ceo of Fáilte Ireland. My volume and my cadence sounded like I was introducing Conor Mcgregor. Why not? Paul’s a top fighter for Ireland’s tourism industry, so let’s do it!
He commented on my energy as he took the podium. The audience laughed. They were enjoying themselves. As Paul talked, more and more people came in to take their seats.
The organisers had a guy teach us how to perform the All Blacks’ Haka. Hilarious. I loved it. From that guy to the next speaker and on to the next speaker, I aimed to make it fun and interesting. I asked the speaker questions. I ask the audience questions. I led a funny focus exercise. I do my solid best to keep the energy up in that room.
Many people afterward remarked about how and why I do it. The “how” is through a combination of volume, humour and body movement. But the “why” is the most important. As I watched that room fill up throughout the day, the energy grew and grew. Simply put, I’m enthusiastic because I’m convinced it’s contagious. Your energy is contagious. So, for you as a leader, it’s the same thing. It’s your job to keep the energy of your team or cohort up.
I’ve been to other events when lower than expected turn-out or technical difficulty or an unexpected question from the audience dampens an MC or presenter’s spirits and, in turn, the speaker’s bad mood darkens the whole audience experience.
Likewise, if you don’t seem enthusiastic about a project, how can you expect your team to be? You know how you look and act when you’re at a concert or a rugby match that you enjoy? You can match your business body language and expression to that to indicate that you’re excited. Next to sleep, we spend more time doing our job than anything else. Business shouldn’t be boring. Roll out a little more energy next time. A woman I was training explained that she would rather layer on her new communications skills in front of strangers than her own cohort.
I understand this concern, but there are also ways to add purposeful tactics a little at a time so you won’t “shock” an audience that already knows you and your communicating style.
Take energy, for example. If you’re ready to power up your energy, get out from behind your desk at your next face-to-face meeting. Stand casually against a window or wall in your office.
Use your hands to help express yourself. If you deploy a variety of gestures, audiences will believe you have more warmth and energy. That’s a real positive.
Whether it’s a historic storm or a small storm at the office, the way you choose to respond to it will send a contagious message. How are your energy levels? Write to Gina in care of Sundaybusiness@independent.ie