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Tomorrow is Leap Day – that once-every-four-year opportunity to do something unusual, whether it’s proposing marriage or taking up origami. Or perhaps it’s a chance to become a better communicator via some simple, practical tools.

Be Still (my beating heart)
In an interview recently, Michael Caine talked about his first big film role, as an army officer, in Zulu. To prepare for the part, he studied powerful people and observed that powerful people are still. They move slowly and calmly, gesture infrequently and deliberately, and exude self confidence through an assured posture.

This we can easily put into practice on the 29th February and beyond, in every presentation/pitch/interview. Let’s eliminate swaying, pacing and flapping – all of which are a distraction to our audience – and instead be still.

Silence is Golden
Caine also observed that powerful people speak slowly and pause often because they’re not afraid of being interrupted (this comes from knowing/believing that what they are saying is of genuine interest to their audience). Powerless people speak quickly and pause rarely because they fear or are accustomed to being interrupted.

I’ve long been an advocate of the controlled and deliberate pause as a way of ‘holding’ your audience and exuding confidence. Perhaps we should designate the rest of 2016 as the International Year of the Pause!

Aristotle said: “Persuasion may come when the speech stirs the emotions”. So, basically, did an expert on consumer behaviour on the Today programme recently. She was being interviewed about the lure of supermarket special offers such as BOGOF, and she helpfully confirmed that all buying decisions are based on emotion. So, since we’re all in the business of persuading people to buy something – consultancy, design, legal advice, technology, audit expertise – it’s vitally important that we appeal to our audience’s heart as well as their head. It’s not enough to give them purely factual information. We must resonate with them on an emotional level – delivering content which will make them feel eg safe, proud, excited, reassured.

So, as the 29th February looms, may I wish you a very happy Leap Day and remind you to stand still, shut up and BOGOF.