For a long period in my professional life I was a corporate speaker, sometimes even a keynoter.
I gave presentations on clarity, the positive power of no, individual and personal psychology as it affected team performance, and several other topics of my clients’ choice.
Frequently when discussing details with a potential client, they would ask me to “inspire” the audience.
From Merriam Webster.com:
When inspire first came into use in the 14th century it had a meaning it still carries in English today: “to influence, move, or guide by divine or supernatural influence or action.” It’s this use that we see in phrases like “scripture inspired by God,” where the idea is that God shaped the scripture in an active and explicit way.
The meaning is a metaphorical extension of the word’s Latin root: inspirare means “to breathe or blow into.” The metaphor is a powerful one, with the very breath of a divine or supernatural force asserted as being at work.
The metaphor developed further, with inspire gaining similar but somewhat weaker meanings. Someone who is inspired by a particular artist, for example, is influenced by that artist in a way that animates or intensifies their own work. Something that inspires people to action motivates them. And if we say that something has inspired an emotion, thought, or idea, we are saying that it somehow had a part in its coming to be.
So how do I inspire another? Am I a divine or supernatural force? And what’s inspiration’s functional value? What does it do for someone? You might ask yourself the same questions as the leader of a team or a volunteer group or a department in your company or a sales team.
I try to “enlighten” while inspiring people—to shine a light on something they didn’t know or believe before I intersected them. Have you ever stood before a group hoping to inspire them? I personally believe that most of my audiences are not looking for divine or supernatural intervention.
Your audiences may believe you have tidbits of information to share that will improve their existence.
In my experience, my audiences believe they already know what they need. They are, by definition, in their Knower/Judger mode; I mean they will naturally compare every brilliant nugget you share with what they already know. (How many times have you made a perfectly valid point to a co-worker and received “Yes, but…” in response?)
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. They listen with the intent to respond”. —Steven R. Covey
Let’s get to the nitty gritty. If I tell someone how to have, do, or attempt some outcome, that’s coming from my K/J. I’m attempting to transfer my knowledge to them. And it’s sometimes mistaken for being inspirational.
Powerful “inspirational speakers” make huge livings telling people how to be more than they are, make more money, yada, yada, yada. And while the audience may, for a time, set aside their historical K/J understanding of the point being made in order to adopt the new idea, traditionally it doesn’t seem to last too long. Their K/J successfully drags them back to their pre-presentation position.
Here’s the problem: My experience is that 99% of us react to a K/J statement from our own K/J. The Dad tape says, “Just DO IT!” and we cross our arms in front and respond “Make me!”. Ideally, we’d like the recipient of the statement to accept it from their Learner/Researcher where they’re inspired to be open minded and try something new, but I don’t see that happening with regularity.
To be truly inspirational (to connect with the listener’s L/R), I believe the presenter would be more successful speaking from their L/R.
So how do we do that? By engaging the listener(s). Ask them questions. Involve them in exercises, games, humor. We learn better when in our L/R mindset—in my experience, that’s the only place it happens. If I’m in my K/J, then your chances of inspiring me with a loud booming voice are poor.
But if you engage me, lower my K/J defenses, and somehow open my mind, you stand a chance of getting through and even INSPIRING me. I believe the L/R to L/R connection is the divine or supernatural influence mentioned in the description above.
And I’ve seen it work like magic. It can work for you, too.