Here at Quantified, we spend a lot of talking and writing about how to deliver less-than-stellar news. How do you frame it when you have to disappoint investors? How do you keep your message optimistic and future-forward while still being clear and candid about what went wrong? How do you ensure your voice and body language mirror the gravity of the situation without being overly negative?
But we’ve noticed something lately.
When people are giving good news, we’ve noticed they tend to look and sound just as serious as when the news is bad. When we flip on the news or queue up conference and earnings call replays, we’re seeing stern facial expressions and stiff posture as c-suiters, politicians, and other leaders miss the chance to really celebrate wins with their teams, investors, and customers. Even if these leaders are delivering positive content, if their vocal patterns, gestures, and body language signal a different story, audiences will be uncertain as to whether the good news is really all that good, likely waiting for the other shoe to drop or wondering what the speaker is hiding.
So let’s take a break from the bad news for a minute and talk about your next opportunity to share good news. How can you seize the opportunity to celebrate your message with your audience?
3 Ways to Make the Good News Count
While your content is important, of course, your body language is critical in communicating your message. To see what we mean, go to YouTube and pull up a few different talks. Watch them with the volume off, and see if you can tell what the general tone of the presentation is just by watching the way the speaker presents herself. If they’re doing a good job, it will be pretty obvious from their body language alone.
So when you’re sharing good news, what should you focus on?
Let’s start with facial expressions. When we’re delivering bad news, we focus on keeping a straight face, even furrowing our brows and frowning. But when the new is good, there’s no reason to stay so somber. Does the news you’re sharing make you happy? Let it show on your face, keeping your expression open and giving yourself permission to smile at all the best parts.
When the message is serious, speakers tend to (and should) stand a little more stiffly and move around a little less. But when the tone of a presentation is meant to be lighthearted, it’s ok to loosen up. You’ll still want to stand up straight, but feel free to lower those shoulders and move around a little more, emphasizing key points with organic gestures. If you look uptight, your positive message is liable to sound hollow, but if you appear to be relaxed and excited, your audience will catch on.
3. Let It Sink in
When you’re making an exciting announcement, there’s no need to rush. This isn’t something you want to race through and move on from; it’s something you want to share with your audience, celebrating with them and letting them experience the same happiness you are.
This means pausing to let your key points land, making eye contact with teammates as you acknowledge their successes or with clients or investors as you thank them for your support, and being sure your vocal patterns match the tone of your message. You’re not snapping or apologizing or lecturing; you’re celebrating, and the more you can let your enthusiasm play through your voice, the more it will rub off on your audience.
All of this may seem obvious, but it’s often easier said than done. Whether your nerves are getting in the way of organic body language, you’re furrowing our brow as you try to recall your next point, or you’ve developed a “default” speaking persona that prevents you from loosening up, there are plenty of reasons you might struggle to let your presence onstage match the overall positivity of your message. But when this happens, your audience will sense that you’re not embracing the good news, and they’ll struggle to embrace it, themselves.
The real key to ensuring you’re able to fully convey your message? Practice. When you know your talking points like the back of your hand, you’re comfortable in the presentation setting, and you’ve had plenty of time to rehearse, you’ll be able to bring your full self to the stage, embracing your message and reflecting it in the way you look and sound.
Only then will you and your audience be able to celebrate like you mean it.