I bet you never imagined that tension can actually be a good thing when doing any kind of public speaking, right?
There isn’t a speaking coach alive who wouldn’t agree that being relaxed is the best way to ensure you have a free, projected voice. Grip it up with any form of tension and you’re in trouble.
And they’d be right…except when they are not.
Watching a documentary on the power and influence of film editors over the weekend got me thinking. Walter Murch, the legendary editor who cut films such as The English Patient and Apocalypse Now, said something about looking for ‘moments of tension’ and how they influence whether a shot goes in or ends up on the floor. It was these moments of tension that he was always looking for. It was what made a film great. But…
How does tension relate to intention?
To explain, the word “intention” comes from the Latin for attention, and to “stretch out”, to lean toward, even strain towards something. Literally, in tension.
Professional performers, actors, speakers and athletes – who are not just earning a living but mastering their craft – will understand this concept intimately, even if they don’t have a word for it.
Because without intention, there is no state of tension.
When a powerful speaker holds the attention of a massive room of people, there is tension.
When a tenor sustains a top c for what seems a lifetime, there is tension.
When an actor holds the gaze of another in an intimate close up (watch any of Ralph Fiennes’ work and you will see a master of the intense gaze. Notice too, the word intense. Same root.)
This isn’t about pain, or strain, although you may feel it. It’s about preparation.
It’s about the state of getting ready, like a runner at the starter’s block waiting for the gun. Like a rubber band ready to launch a rock. In The Presence Factor™ I call it “dynamic stillness”, where you practise standing without moving yet you appear to have energy fizzing through you. When you use dynamic stillness in your presentations, it gives you an aura of magnetic power and control, because you are ready to move in any direction in an instant, like a panther ready to pounce.
When you master the art of being in a state of tension, your work becomes the difference between playing upon a perfectly tuned string and trying to make music from a floppy length of wire.
A great performance is held together and supported by hundreds of strong segments of focused and unwavering intention. When it drops or disappears althogther, the result is work that is unfocused, fuzzy, flaccid, meaningless and emotionally ineffective.
You can’t hope to move anyone if you have no idea what it is you are trying to move them towards. It is your job to decide what something means – to you – and then to infuse your entire mind, body and voice with this state of tension, this readiness, this focus and stretch of will.
Can you imagine how much greater your speaking and presentations could be if you used this? How magnificent could your whole life become if you gathered each copper-wire strong, glorious moment of intention and fashioned them together, day after day?