27th February 2015   |    by Jacqui Harper MBE

What I Learnt From Strictly Dancers Ian and Natalie

Jacqui Harper with Strictly dancers Natalie Lowe and Ian Waite

I recently hosted a fundraiser for my son’s school, The Grammar School at Leeds or GSAL. It featured two of the stars of Strictly Come Dancing – Natalie Lowe and Ian Waite. In between exquisite dances I interviewed them. To my surprise, that evening I learned so much about powerful communication.

Preparation. You can’t be reminded too often about the importance of preparation. I watched closely in rehearsals as the dancers went through all the numbers. Natalie and Ian have been dancing together for seven years yet they still rehearsed each dance meticulously. Being familiar with the content of their dance isn’t enough for them. They want mastery.

With business presentations it is so easy to settle for a quick run-through and hope for the best. How much more effective it is to rehearse until you feel you can give your best to your business audience.

Focus. Natalie talked about getting into the zone when she is performing.  When she is ‘in the zone’ she is totally focused on the emotion of the dance and is aware of nothing else around her. It is really exciting to see the mindset of a champion in action.

Excellence in business presenting also requires a high level of focus.  True rapport with an audience is achieved when it’s clear you care deeply about their needs – and meet them.

55% of your communication is to do with body language. We often remind speakers of this when we want them to be more expressive and achieve more impact. It is startling how powerful body language can be when the meaning is communicated almost entirely through the body. Natalie and Ian used movement to communicate – and evoke – deep emotion. During The Jive it was joy and exuberance. The Foxtrot poignantly expressed love and loss.

Storytelling. I interviewed the dancers throughout the evening – each time revealing more about the person behind the talent. Natalie is from Sydney and has been dancing since she was five years old. She says that dancing requires sacrifice. For example, she has been away from home for seven years.  The evening was a storytelling feast: coming from the movement of the dancers and during the interviews. As human beings we seem hard-wired to storytelling.

It is a compelling way of communicating ideas and can be highly effective in business presentations. It enriches business messages and reinforces key points.

The evening sparkled with lots of Strictly stardust. The only thing I didn’t learn was how to dance. Sadly, I still have two left feet!

Copyright Jacqui Harper 2015

About Jacqui Harper MBE

Jacqui Harper MBE MA Hon Fellow

Jacqui is a visiting professor at INSEAD – the number one global business school (Financial Times, 2017) where she teaches Executive Presence to MBA students and executives.

As a TV news anchor Jacqui has presented several news programmes for BBC TV, Sky News and ITV and a chat show on BBC 2.
Her presenting experience gives her many practical insights and skills to share with business leaders needing high grade communication skills at conferences, board presentations, media interviews and stakeholder events.

Through her company, CRYSTAL BUSINESS COACHING, she has been transforming Executive Presentations for over fifteen years and her clients include many CEOs of global corporations and senior staff at The Foreign Office.

Jacqui has a passion for writing. It started as a business reporter for the Oakland Tribune in California. She has written a business book called The Professional’s Guide to Presentations. She is currently writing a new book on Executive Presence.

Jacqui is married to Peter, a lawyer, and they have two gorgeous kids who are at school. Jacqui’s free time is spent walking in The Yorkshire Dales.

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