The Winning Voice

Best in class communication techniques from Michael Kelly

George Clooney & Hugh Laurie – STILLNESS

Consider these two bits of information.

#1. If you stop moving your head around, you’ll be a movie star’. Director, Steven Spielberg, speaking to actor George Clooney on the set of the television series ER quoted in a New Yorker Magazine article.

#2. Below is a link to a 26.55 minute video clip of an interview with actor Hugh Laurie. Laurie is a captivating speaker. Watch as much of the clip as you want to. What I want you to pay attention to, are his shoulders.*

Why do I share these bits of information?

Simply because of this.

Stillness conveys certainty

Let me explain.

Regarding Clooney, here is what he said (as quoted in the article) in response to Spielberg’s comment.

“It was a funny thing; when you do a lot of television, over the years you tend to try to do too much. Most of the time you’re not the lead, and you’re, ‘O.K., I’m going to be eating potato chips!’ “ He mimed someone throwing food into his mouth. “You’re trying to fill the screen with business all the time.” He added, “When you’re unsure is when you start to move. When you don’t know what you’re going to say.”

In other words, when unsure, rather than being still, people move their body.

The reason to pay attention to Laurie’s shoulders – is, that they don’t move. They are still. Note how well settled Laurie is, in the chair.

Often, when a person is ill at ease or nervous they’ll move their shoulders or their head, or other parts of their body.

There is none of this movement with Laurie. Overall, we perceive him as confident in himself and in who is and what he does. He moves in concert with the words he’s speaking.

Despite his masterful presentation, at the start of the clip as the host introduced him, Laurie does leak uncertainty through three behaviours.

Namely – pressed lips, a facial grimace and an upward gaze. I correlate these signals of doubt, with his statement in the clip.

‘having a lack of confidence in my own role, I meddle in others’.

So take heart, even luminary actors have doubt in presenting themselves and their ideas.

Here is the link to the clip

*Of course Laurie’s deep resonant voice, understated speaking and general insouciance contribute to his appeal as a speaker.


Own the conversation

Over the next seven days, observe any movement of  your head, shoulders, arms and body. Consider if you move from being unsure or from nervousness. If you do, make it your aim to still your body. Move on purpose.

As a more in-depth additional action, do this. Watch the Laurie clip/or parts of the clip repeatedly, to channel Laurie’s performance and adapt it to how you speak and present yourself.


p.s. Check out this post about the American actor John Wayne, entitled Learning from John Wayne’s body language.

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