Personal impact is a dicey business. While attending the launch of a new museum dedicated to film and TV, I stepped into a newsreader booth and silently read the autocue. Once done, I stepped out only to discover with horror that my ‘performance’ was being played back on a giant screen, complete with yawns and moments when I was picking my teeth. The bits where I was silently mouthing words like a gaping goldfish were especially memorable.
And that’s the point. Personal impact is about being memorable, particularly for the right reasons. Like all forms of communication, personal impact comes down to how you come across to other people. How they remember you will depend on your actions.
Controlling your actions is important, impact helps people remember you the next time they meet you. This in turn develops trust. Impact also raises your profile and helps your message hit home, whether you’re presenting to many people or pitching to one or two. In the end impact keeps your presence lingering in the room even after you’ve left.
Learning to control your actions
So how do you control your actions? Our Learnflix courses on Personal Impact explain these skills in detail, focusing on bringing together your emotional intelligence, vocal expression and body language. These skills enable you to achieve your long-term ambitions as well as short-term objectives, from getting noticed at work to successfully pitching to clients.
1. Emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is a complex of mix of ingredients, from self-regard to relationship skills. In essence they boil down to two things, self-awareness and empathy for someone else, in that order. This two-step process requires you to know your own opinion. You might not always choose to express it, but it will at least shape your thoughts and responses.
What are the things that are important to you? Getting your point across perhaps, being heard, being treated with respect, being talked to as a person rather than being talked at as if you’re a meeting. Of course these things matter to other people too, communication being a two-way street. Your audience’s opinion of you rests on your empathy for them.
2. Vocal expression
Vocal expression can be trickier than might at first appear. There’s a lot of guidance available about using your voice, but speaking with impact is as much psychological as physical. A good place to start is to believe what you’re saying. If you don’t, others may not either.
The next step is to think about language. What are the words that are natural to you? Sparing a thought for your audience will help you determine how formal or relaxed you should be. This in turn will influence your choice of words. Then come thoughts about tone, energy, emphasis and clarity. It seems a lot to remember, but once you know what you want to say, everything else will start to fall into place.
3. Body language
Thinking about the needs of your audience is also a useful approach when it comes to body language. This too has a psychological aspect to it, just like using your voice. Keeping things natural to you is a good first step, though you might need to moderate things. For example, arm-waving and big gestures work better in some contexts than others.
Eye contact sometimes take more practice than we might think. In one-to-one situations, eye contact is easier than when we’re addressing a room full of people. Similarly, on a Zoom call it’s hard to talk to the light next to your camera. Keeping your hands under control also takes a little practice. Again, it’s important to be natural but it’s helpful to remember how you’re coming across to other people. If the people in the front row are looking a little windswept, maybe your hand gestures are a bit big.
You can increase your chances of getting a favourable reaction from other people by remembering their needs and expectations. Being true to yourself is always a good place to start. It’s certainly a better bet than kicking off with a film on a big screen offering two minutes of you picking your teeth. Being memorable is nice, but it’s important to shape what you want people to remember.