Poise and Personal Appearance
1-9. Define poise and confidence, and tell how these can be attained.
1 A poised speaker is a relaxed speaker. He is calm and composed because he has the situation under control. Lack of poise, on the other hand, shows a certain lack of confidence. The two go together. That is why “Confidence and poise” is listed as just one point on the Speech Counsel slip.
2 While confidence and poise are desirable on the part of a speaker, they are not to be confused with overconfidence, which is manifested by swaggering or strutting or slouching in an overly relaxed manner if seated or too casually leaning against a doorpost if preaching from house to house. If something in your presentation suggests an overconfident attitude, your school overseer will no doubt give you private counsel, because his interest will be to help you overcome any such impression you may be giving that might impede the effectiveness of your ministry.
3 However, if you are a new speaker, it is more likely that you will feel timid and shy as you approach the platform. You may have a real nervousness and uneasiness that could cause you to believe you will give an ineffective presentation. This need not be so. Confidence and poise can be acquired by diligent effort and a knowledge of why they are lacking.
4 Why do some speakers lack confidence? Generally for one, or both, of two reasons. First, lack of preparation or wrong view of their material. Second, a negative attitude toward their qualifications as speakers.
5 What will give you confidence? Basically, it is the knowledge or belief that you will be able to accomplish your purpose. It is the assurance that you do have the situation in hand and can control it. On the platform this might require some experience. Having given a number of talks, you can be reasonably sure that this one also will be successful. But even if you are relatively new, your earlier talks should encourage you, so you should soon be able to manifest this quality to a reasonable degree.
6 Another vital requirement for confidence, whether you are experienced or not, is a knowledge of your material and conviction that this material is worth while. That means not only thorough advance preparation of your subject but also careful preparation for delivery. If you realize that it is for your own theocratic advancement as well as for the instruction of the brothers in attendance, you will approach the platform in a prayerful attitude. You will become absorbed in the subject and you will forget yourself and your nervousness. You will be thinking of pleasing God, not men.—Gal. 1:10; Ex. 4:10-12; Jer. 1:8.
7 This means you must be convinced of everything you are going to say. Make certain in your preparation that this is so. And after you have done all that you can to prepare an interesting and lively talk, if you still feel that the talk lacks color or is dead, remember that a live audience will warm up your talk. So make your audience alive by your own presentation, and their interest will give you confidence in what you have to present.
8 Just as a doctor looks for symptoms of illness, so your counselor will notice signs that point unmistakably to lack of composure. And just as the good doctor will work on the cause of your illness rather than the symptoms, so your counselor will endeavor to help you overcome the real causes of lack of confidence and poise. However, knowing the symptoms and learning to control them will actually help you to overcome the underlying causes of those symptoms. What are they?
9 Generally speaking, there are two outlets for pent-up emotions or tenseness. They can be classified as physical or bodily evidences and vocal manifestations. When these are displayed to any degree, we say that person lacks poise.
10, 11. How can physical bearing expose a lack of confidence?
10 Poise manifest in physical bearing. The first evidence of poise, then, is manifest in your physical bearing. Here are some things that will betray you if you lack confidence. Consider first the hands: hands clasped behind the back, held rigidly at the side or tightly clutching the speakers’ stand; hands repeatedly in and out of pockets, buttoning and unbuttoning a coat, aimlessly moving to the cheek, the nose, the eyeglasses; incompleted gestures; toying with a watch, a pencil, a ring or notes. Or consider a constant shuffling of the feet, a swaying of the body from side to side; back like a ramrod or sagging of the knees; frequent moistening of the lips, repeated swallowing, rapid and shallow breathing.
11 All these evidences of nervousness can be controlled or minimized by conscious effort. If you make that effort you will give an impression of poise in your physical bearing. So breathe naturally and evenly, and make a definite effort to relax. Pause before you begin speaking. Your audience is bound to react favorably, and this, in turn, will help you to gain the confidence you are seeking. Concentrate on your material, not being concerned about the audience or thinking about yourself.
12-14. If one’s voice betrays lack of confidence, what can be done to acquire poise?
12 Poise shown by controlled voice. Vocal evidences displaying nervousness are an abnormally high pitch, a trembling of the voice, repeated clearing of the throat, an unusual thinness of the tone caused by lack of resonance due to tenseness. These problems and mannerisms also can be conquered by diligent effort.
13 Do not hurry while walking to the platform or arranging your notes, but be relaxed and happy to share the things you have prepared. If you know you are nervous when you begin to talk, then you must make a special effort to talk slower in the introduction than usual and with a lower pitch than you might feel is normal for you. This will help you to control your nervousness. You will find that both gesturing and pausing will help you to relax.
14 But do not wait until you go on the platform to practice all these things. Learn to be poised and controlled in your daily speech. It will go far toward giving you confidence on the platform and in your field ministry, where it is most essential. A calm delivery will put your audience at ease so they will be able to concentrate on the material. Commenting regularly at meetings will help you to become accustomed to speaking before a group.
15. Why is good personal appearance so important?
15 Good personal appearance can aid you to have poise, but it is also important for other reasons. If it is not given adequate attention, the minister may find that his appearance distracts his audience so that they really do not pay attention to what he is saying. Rather, he is focusing attention on himself, which, of course, he does not want to do. If a person is extremely careless about his personal appearance, he may even cause others to look down on the organization of which he is a part and to reject the message that he is presenting. This should not be. So, while “Personal appearance” is listed last on the Speech Counsel form, it should not be viewed as of least importance.
16-21. What counsel is given on proper attire and grooming?
16 Proper attire and grooming. Extremes in attire should be avoided. The Christian minister will not follow the fads of the world that draw attention to oneself. He will avoid being overdressed, or dressing in too flashy a manner so that attention is directed to the clothing. Also, he will exercise care so as not to be dressed in a slovenly way. Being well dressed does not require that one wear a new suit, but one can always be neat and clean. Trousers should be pressed and the necktie worn straight. These are things that anyone can do.
17 The counsel concerning attire that the apostle Paul recorded, as found in 1 Timothy 2:9, is appropriate for Christian women today. As is true of the brothers, they should not dress in such a way as to draw attention to themselves, nor would it be appropriate for them to go in for extremes in worldly styles of dress that give evidence of lack of modesty.
18 Of course, it should be kept in mind that not all persons will dress alike. They should not be expected to. People have different tastes, and this is quite proper. What is considered proper dress also varies in different parts of the world, but it is always good to avoid dressing in such a way as to convey unfavorable suggestions to the minds of those in the audience and to avoid stumbling those who come to our meetings.
19 As for proper dress on the part of the brothers when giving talks in the school or on the service meeting, it might be said that they should be attired in the same general way as the brother who delivers a public talk. If it is customary in your locality for those who deliver the public talks to wear a necktie and suit coat, then that is also proper attire when giving talks in the Theocratic Ministry School, since you are being trained for public speaking.
20 Proper grooming also should receive attention. Uncombed hair can leave a bad impression. Reasonable care should be exercised to see that one presents a neat appearance in this regard. Likewise, when men in the congregation have assignments on the meetings, they should see that they are properly shaved.
21 As to counsel on this matter of proper attire and grooming, where there is room for commendation this may always be properly given from the platform. In fact, when commendation is given to those who give proper attention to their attire and grooming, this encourages others to follow that good example. However, when there is need for improvement in regard to attire and grooming, it might be better for the school overseer to offer these suggestions in a kindly way in private, rather than counseling the student from the platform.
22-28. Discuss how posture can affect one’s personal appearance.
22 Proper posture. Proper posture is also involved in personal appearance. Again, not everyone carries himself in the same way, and no endeavor should be made to make the brothers conform to a certain rigid pattern. However, extremes that are undesirable and that draw attention to the individual and away from the message should receive some attention so that they can be corrected or eliminated.
23 For example, not everyone places his feet just the same, and generally speaking, it makes little difference how you do stand, as long as you are standing erect. But if a speaker stands with his feet so far apart that it gives the audience the impression that he thinks he is on a horse, that can be very distracting.
24 So, too, when a speaker is slumped over, not standing erect, it elicits a feeling of pity on the part of the audience toward the speaker because he does not appear to be well, and this, of course, detracts from the presentation. Their thoughts are not on what he is saying but on him.
25 Standing on one foot, with the other leg wound around behind it, gives evidence of obvious lack of poise, as does standing with one’s hands shoved into one’s pockets. These are things to be avoided.
26 Likewise, while it is not wrong for a speaker occasionally to rest his hands on the speakers’ stand, if there is one, he certainly should not lean on the speakers’ stand, any more than a publisher in the field ministry would lean against the doorframe. It does not present a good appearance.
27 It must be reemphasized, however, that individuals are different. Not everyone stands the same way, and it is only undesirable extremes that detract from one’s presentation that should receive attention in the Theocratic Ministry School.
28 Correcting one’s posture is definitely a matter of preparation. If you have a need to improve along this line, you must think ahead and know that when you mount the platform you should assume the proper posture before you begin speaking. This is also something that can be corrected by practicing proper posture every day.
29-31. Why should our equipment be neat?
29 Neat equipment. If, when one is conversing at the door or giving a talk from the platform, some papers fall out of the Bible one is using, this obviously is distracting. It gives a bad appearance. This does not mean that nothing should ever be put in the Bible, but when difficulties begin to arise that detract from one’s talk, then it indicates that more attention must be given to proper appearance. It is good also to examine the appearance of your Bible. Due to much use it can become soiled or worn out and look unkempt. So it would be good to determine if the Bible used on the platform or in the field ministry would offend the ones we are desiring to assist.
30 The same is true of one’s literature case. There are many ways in which a literature case can be packed neatly, but if, when we go to the door and reach for a publication in our case, we have to feel through a mass of papers in order to find it, or if, when we pull out a magazine, other things fall out on the doorstep, something definitely needs to be done about it.
31 It can also be quite distracting to the audience if the speaker has his outside pockets loaded with pens and pencils and other equipment that are clearly in evidence. No rule should be made as to where a person keeps these things, but when they begin to draw attention to themselves and away from the talk, then some adjustment needs to be made.
32-34. What part do facial expressions play in our appearance?
32 No inappropriate facial expression. When preparing a talk it is advisable to consider the mood that the material calls for. For example, when speaking about death and destruction, it would be inappropriate to have a broad smile on one’s face. Likewise, when speaking about the happy conditions of the new system of things, it would hardly be fitting to scowl at the audience.
33 Facial expression generally is not a problem, and, of course, some persons are more inclined to be serious in expression than others. What is to be guarded against, however, is the extreme that detracts from the talk. If the facial expression would raise a question in the minds of the audience as to the sincerity of the speaker, this definitely would be undesirable.
34 So it is good when preparing a discourse to consider the mood in which it should be delivered. If it is a serious subject, dealing with the destruction of the wicked, then it should be delivered in a serious way. And if you are thinking of the material and keep it in mind, your facial expression in most cases will naturally reflect that. If it is a happy subject, one that should elicit joy on the part of the audience, then it should be delivered in a happy way. And if you feel at ease on the platform, your facial expression will usually radiate that joy.