THE COM­MU­NI­CA­TOR En­ergy is con­ta­gious and helps you face any storm

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE -

‘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@in­de­pen­

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