Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My Thoughts on Tiger Part 3 – How He Said It

In my last two blogs, we talked about Tiger’s media strategy and the rhetoric he used to convey his apology. As I mentioned yesterday, his written message seemed inconsistent with the nonverbal signals he was giving his audience. So, let’s discuss this further …

Who was the audience anyway? My mother-in-law used to tell us that, if someone asks for your forgiveness, you should say to them verbally and nonverbally, “I accept.” Maybe that should be a guide, only ask forgiveness from those you want to accept your apology. If you don’t want Ralph Whipple from Des Moines, Iowa calling and saying “I accept,” then you might just have the wrong audience.

Which emotion was being controlled and which was being telegraphed? At times, Tiger’s nonverbal behavior seemed scripted and over rehearsed. Other times, his demeanor seemed genuine but bordering on pre-pounce status. Tiger used deliberate head shakes, pauses, wide-eyed gazes, an unmoving lower jaw and eye contact with the audience and camera, but did he use them effectively? His facial expressions (micro-movement) showed a range of emotions including fear, relief, anger, sadness, embarrassment – sounds about right to me.

His eye contact with the in-person audience and camera improved as the statement progressed. His obvious nervousness at the beginning caused sweeping glances across his audience, preventing him from building any connection with individuals. Eye contact is a necessity to build engagement within your audience; without it, your audience loses interest and tunes out your message. About two minutes in, his eye contact improves with longer, pointed glances at specific audience members and the statement “I have let down my fans” made directly to the camera. It would have benefited him to practice and memorize sections of the speech so his eye contact could have been more natural and consistent, instead of looking down to his script every few seconds.

Because he referenced that script so often, Tiger’s use of pauses and silence within the speech could have been more effective. He chose unnecessary spots to add a lengthy pause, which broke up his delivery. Conversely, he sometimes rushed through his delivery and statements that would have benefited from the emphasis of a pause didn’t get the appropriate attention. The formatting on his script could have helped with this. I use section breaks or page breaks to provide cues when a longer pause is warranted. I advise my clients to write “PAUSE” where a deliberate pause should be included. Rehearsing your statement using visual reminders within your script will make the behavior more ingrained when you are presenting on the ‘big stage’. But you must rehearse.

I do want to acknowledge one example of a well-placed pause which stood out for its effectiveness. At about three and a half minutes in, Tiger says ‘For all that I have done … (long pause, look straight at camera, big swallow, deep breath) … I am so sorry.’ This statement, more than any other, suggested that Tiger understood the gravity of his actions and his nonverbal actions worked with the rhetoric to communicate the emotion.

Tiger’s delivery would have benefited from more variation in his voice. The ‘speech’ was largely monotone, causing the words and sentences to run together and sound the same. Two specific sections demonstrate where Tiger’s voice varied more and specific words were emphasized. First when Tiger is denying rumors of domestic violence and commending Elin for her grace during the ordeal, and then when he demands the press leave his children alone by saying, “They staked out my wife and pursued my mom … please leave my wife and kids alone.” In both of these segments, Tiger’s vocal tone changes, causing the viewer to take note. You can hear emotions like care, concern and even defiance in his voice. If the rest of the statement had been as strong vocally as these two sections, the audience would have been more engaged.

We’ve discussed Tiger at length over the past three blogs. I don’t often dwell on a particular topic for multiple posts, but given the media attention and scrutiny Tiger’s statement received, a detailed reaction seemed warranted. While Tiger may be the world’s greatest golfer, presentation skills and messaging don’t translate from the greens to a podium. If you want your message to be believed and considered authentic by your audience, your visual, verbal and nonverbal communication must be strategic and consistent. Failing in any of these areas equals a failed opportunity to deliver your message to your audience.

One other item of note: what was up with mom? From where I sat, she could not look at her son. Aside from a few quick glimpses at him, her eyes were focused on the floor or off to the side of the room. Even when Tiger specifically refers to her “I hurt my mother,” she stares directly at the floor. We investigated whether it was due to cultural differences, but found nothing that would suggest a reason for the lack of eye contact. Consider when you have watched someone speak and you don’t buy in to what they are saying, do you look at them or no? If they are foe, you will look at them, challenge them with your eyes, but if you are emotionally tied to the person and cannot send good energy, then it is best to send none at all. Hmmmm.

No comments: