Be a Sponge: Tsaheylu: How to Take Your Audience for a Ride 2 Presentation Lessons from the Movie Avatar! | Darren LaCroix

Be a Sponge: Tsaheylu: How to Take Your Audience for a Ride 2 Presentation Lessons from the Movie Avatar!

By Darren LaCroix | Master Public Speaking

Do you realize that every presentation is different, even though you are the same person? Even if your words are exactly the same and you have the same intention, it’s still slightly different each time. Do you know why? Do you see them? I mean, like Avatar’s message, “I see you?”

During my 14 hour flight to Sydney, Australia from Los Angeles, I was very antsy, so I decided to watch the film Avatar. I had heard all the hype and was prepared to watch with a skeptical eye. Though dead tired, I was blown away with all the back story and this fascinating world called Pandora that was created. I wasn’t even halfway through the movie, and I loved the presentation metaphor woven into it. (As a speaker coach, I can’t help constantly using a coach’s eye and being on the lookout to help you “get it.”)

I knew I had to write an article about it! Ironically, I started writing it during the flight of my return visit to Sydney. I thought what James Cameron and his colleagues had created was amazing. We need to understand it like they do in order to “move”, our audience.

If you haven’t seen the film or need a refresher, it is a story about the Na’vi people who live on Pandora. The conflict (for storytelling students) is when the main character, John Sully, has to choose between his orders and protecting the world he feels is home. Conflict increases when his commanding officer offers him his “legs back” if he helps them destroy the world he has come to love.

(OK, there’s even more conflict when humans come to mine rare minerals from the planet — and in the process, the ‘greedy corporation’ destroys their world. (Sound familiar?)

As a speech coach, the part that grabbed my attention was the Na’vi “queues.” Queues come out of the back base of their skull and hang down to their waist. They are an external bundle of nerve endings that are braided into their hair for protection. On the surface, they appear to be ponytails. At the very tip, there’s a cluster of nerve endings that allow a direct connection with other organisms. It is an interpersonal and interspecies plug & socket.

The Banshee (flying reptile) and the Direhorse (similar to our horse) also have queues. When queues are connected, the characters can “see into” each other. They know and experience each other at a much deeper level. This incredible connection allows them to share memories and information. Because of this, no verbal or physical directions are necessary — the rider and animal move as “one” and in harmony. The Na’vi call it Tsaheylu or “the bond.”

Especially unique, the Banshee chooses its rider, not the other way around. The rider needs to prove their worthiness before the Banshee will allow them to “get on.” Think about that.

This is exactly how audience members think. They choose whether or not to “allow” a connection with the presenter. As presenters, we must prove our worthiness before individuals will “allow” a connection with us. We must build trust first. We must create the connection before we can take them for a ride. No trust, no connection, no ride! If there is no ride, you can’t “move” them.

Like the Na’vi, audience members need to share emotions in order to create Tsaheylu. If a presenter is too “salesy” or “cocky,” audience members may listen, but they won’t “choose” to connect with that person. As a result, the audience member won’t “allow” you to take them for a ride. If they don’t allow you to connect, you won’t be able to educate, inspire, or entertain.

The main difference is that the Na’vi can only connect with one at a time. As presenters, we have the opportunity to connect with our whole audience, yet each connection with each individual will be unique. Why? Because we are actually tapping into the emotions and past experiences of that person. That’s why every presentation is different, though you may be using the same words. There are different individuals in each audience. Ever notice that there are some “types” of audiences you like better than others? Why? My guess… because it’s easier to connect with them.

Here’s an example:

We held one of our Get Paid to Speak Master Workshops in Australia. Fellow World Champion, Craig Valentine and I had a student, Graham, attending. He has an engineering background.

Some students have often thought that it’s easy for us to have a business teaching speaking because we are World Champions of Public Speaking. Most people outside of that world never even heard of the contest.

Picture this… you have an engineering background. You have to give presentations for work and aren’t comfortable giving them. Being good at communicating to groups of people is crucial to your job and your advancement, so you decide it makes sense to get some training. Would you rather go learn from someone who won some public speaking contest (that you know nothing about and don’t even consider you as being a “speaker.”) Or would you rather learn from someone who has walked in your shoes — someone who knows engineering and the types of presentations you face, along with the challenges you have? Would you rather learn from someone who has walked in your shoes and speaks your language?

Because of shared experience and emotions, people with similar backgrounds are more likely to share Tsaheylu. It would be easier for Graham to connect to and gain trust from that audience. That translates into more acceptance of what you have to inform, educate, or teach. That means that Graham is also more likely to get better results. It all starts with him being more likely to “get the sale” or contract. Does that make sense? (In my online Get Paid to Speak program, I show you where you are uniquely qualified to start getting paid as a speaker, based on your experience.)

What can you do to create Tsaheylu?

I love observing amazing presenters every opportunity I get. Not just on stage, but before and after, as well. Years ago, when I watched Patricia Fripp, I picked up a powerful way to connect. Before each program, she walks around and talks to people. She “gets it” about connecting. Often, she will have her microphone on and walk to the front of the room and start answering questions before the official introduction happens. Powerful.

When I was speaking at the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, I did the same thing. I was presenting the session, Presentations with Punch! There were mostly business people in the audience, and I walked around, asking, “What would you like to get out of today?” “What challenges do you have when giving presentations?”

I made it my intent to help some people even before I began speaking. Ten minutes before we began, one woman enthusiastically said, “I already got my money’s worth!” Meet people where they are. If you are not sure where they are, ask!

During my session, I asked people to raise their hand if I spoke to them beforehand. About one third of the audience did. Then I asked, “Did you feel a closer connection to me because of this?” It was unanimous. Even people to whom I did not speak noticed my actions and appreciated my intention. That matters more than you may think.

My intention… Tsaheylu.

During my presentations, I often show a video clip of my first time on stage in 1992 at Stitches Comedy Club. Even if I’m not in front of a group of speakers, it still creates a deeper connection to my audience once they see the clip. I can feel it.

In Avatar, not long after the two main characters meet, Neytiri says to Jake Sully, “I see you.” He doesn’t “get” what she really means. At the end of the movie, he understands that, “I see you,” doesn’t just mean, “I visually see you.” It means, “I see your actions, your fears, your hopes, I see who you are.”

Whenever you are in front of your next audience — whether big or small — don’t just see the outside. If you want to create a deep Tsaheylu, see into them.

Are you more concerned with “looking good” to your audience, than helping them with their current challenges? I hope you feel that “I see you.”

There is not one way for you to connect. There is, however, one best way for you to create the bond. Be willing to experiment. Does your audience feel that you “see” them? Will you see them? What new strategy will you try in order to create Tsaheylu?

Stage time,
Darren LaCroix, CSP, AS
2001 World Champion of Public Speaking

P.S. Want to know more about how to Get Paid to Speak by Next Week®? Click!

P.P.S. Looking to connect more deeply with your audiences? Check out Stage Time Click!

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