The baton waved; the music flowed; the baton waved; the score flicked over; the score flicked over; the score flicked over; the score flicked over. The maestro stepped forward, put one hand on the young man’s shoulder and with the other signalled for the orchestra to stop playing.
He acknowledged the response from the orchestra and then looked directly at the young man. ‘Do you know the music?’ he asked.‘Yes,’ the young man replied. ‘I know it by heart.’
‘Then why look at the score?’ The maestro paused for a moment, then continued, ‘It is safe to look at the score, comfortable, but it is better to look at your players, more effective, more exciting! When you look at your players directly they will upgrade you; you will become more credible in their eyes.’
The maestro closed the score. He then stood back, a flick of his hand inviting the young man to continue conducting. This time the young man’s gaze remained firmly and consistently upon the players of the orchestra, a smile forming gradually upon his lips.
The maestro did not step forward again until the end of the music.
When communicating with others most of us are guilty of playing safe and choosing the comfortable option. We look down at our notes or, even worse, back at our PowerPoint slides rather than at the people we are communicating with. This makes us as unmemorable as the screen upon which we watch our favourite films or television programmes; we become merely the medium through which our notes or slides communicate their messages, nothing more. So those listening to and watching us downgrade us: downgrade us to the status of an unremarkable transmitter or messenger with which they have no engagement or rapport and for which they have no respect.
When communicating with others stop bowing to your notes or worshipping your PowerPoint. Stop giving them your power. It is good to have these things by your side or at your back but, if you have prepared well, looking at and referring to them should be the exception to the following rule:
Look at those you are communicating with.
Give people the opportunity to see you as something more than an unremarkable, unmemorable, uninspiring transmitter of information. Give them the opportunity to engage with and respect you. Give them the opportunity to upgrade you!