The Power of Touch

Nervous PresenterPeter was nervous. In 30 minutes he would be presenting to the executive staff.

His last presentation did not go well. And now here he was again in the same meeting room. As before, he was well-prepped. On that he had no issue. “Maybe too well? Was that it?” he wondered to himself : “Too many facts…too much in my head? Am I scared of getting my facts tangled?”

He could feel his throat constricting. He wondered what a 2nd poor performance would mean to his career. He was spiraling into a dark place. His hands, unusually wet from perspiration, were beginning to leave marks on the table in front of him. “What if someone sees that? They’ll sense my fear…maybe even see it”.

Then he stood up and remembered three things that had been told to him by his executive business coach. He could hear the voice, clear and calm in his head: “Peter, when you’re in this situation, I want you to do three things.

Number 1: Forget your presentation. You know your material cold. Inside and out. Enough with the fretting.

Number 2: I want you to own the room. Your chair is not the room.  Walk around. Sit in every chair. Pace off it’s length and width. Look at the ceiling and each corner. This is your space.

Number 3 and the most important of all: when each person files in the room, greet them. Not just by saying hello. But by shaking  hands if you can. And if that feels awkward, by touching them, ever so lightly on the forearm or shoulder. And if you miss one or that person is engaged, make definite eye contact and thank them. So to busy Marie who is still engrossed in the last meeting and is checking messages, get her attention in a calm way. ‘Marie, I know how much you have on your plate, so a special thanks for coming’ would do nicely.”

Peter calmed down a bit thinking of these three rules. And put them into play, particularly Number 3, as the attendees started to file in.

Just before presenting he noticed something odd…something he hadn’t seen before in the prior meeting mishap. This time the faces looking back at him were, well, kindly. They all made eye contact and he could feel, really feel to his core, that they wanted him to succeed. He began his presentation amazingly relaxed and even slowed down in his delivery which allowed the attendees to understand and engage more easily. There was no question he couldn’t answer and he almost felt they were trying to help him. Any doubts he had were put to rest when they– in unison–applauded at the finish.

What had happened?

Peter used one of the most important means of communication mammals know: The Power of  Touch to bond with his colleagues. Without realizing what had happened to them, the attendees were motivated to respond positively to Peter through touch and evoke a host of emotions including compassion, empathy and understanding.

Dr. Dacher Keltner of UC Berkeley explains it here in this video. The Power of Touch saved Peter’s presentation. It can help you too.

Ron Benza

(c)2013 Benza Executive Development. (c) 2013 Greater Good Science Center.  All rights reserved.



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