Gravitas: Three simple techniques to increase yours

I was recently lucky enough to interview the voice and presentation expert Caroline Goyder. I was keen to discover techniques by which a fundraiser can increase the gravitas and confidence they project when meeting important donors and corporate partners.

Caroline trained as an actor and then spent 10 years as a voice coach at the Central School of Speech and Drama. Since then she has extended her scope beyond the acting world so that she now also helps all kinds of clients, including business people, politicians and fundraisers.

She told me that meeting or pitching to potential high value donors or corporates has a lot in common with an acting performance. As such, the skills that actors rigorously practice in order to excel are directly transferable to fundraising.

In her excellent book Gravitas, she suggests that our gravitas makes a huge difference to our chances of succeeding in high pressure situations. Furthermore, contrary to what you may have been led to believe, anyone can improve the gravitas they project by practicing certain skills.

She suggests you can understand someone’s gravitas using the following equation:

Knowledge + purpose + passion (- anxiety) = gravitas

While the book is full of practical steps you can take in each of these areas, in today’s blog I will focus on just three that I’ve found especially powerful.

  • FOFBOC. Apparently a key element of ‘knowing thyself’ is that the knowledge must be in the body as much as the mind. If you are ever nervous before an interview or presentation, take a couple of minutes to calmly focus on feeling your ‘feet on floor’ and your ‘bum on the chair’.

Why not try it now? As you tune into the physical sensations of your body making contact with the chair and floor, you draw your attention ‘out of your head’ and become more present in your body. As Caroline explained, when you are really present to your body, people notice your presence.

  • Meditate, even just ten minutes a day. How do simple breathing or meditation exercises help increase your gravitas? Caroline cites Paul Ekman, one of the foremost experts in understanding human emotion. He was interested in why something as simple as tuning into your breathing could make a difference to our emotion and poise. He wrote that because normally we don’t think about breathing ‘…if we learnt to focus our attention on breathing…we develop neural pathways…and…these skills transfer to other automatic processes – benefiting emotional behaviour awareness…’

If you have ever tried meditating and not managed to sustain it welcome to the club. I highly recommend an app called Mind Space which I have been using most days since Caroline recommended it. The first ten days are free. Each day it takes you through a simple 10 minute process, and because you can rely on expert to ease you through it, I’ve found you need far less will-power to do it regularly.

  • Ask yourself, focus on, ‘how can I help them. Caroline relates that the actor Bill Nighy once told her that a great antidote to nervousness in auditions is to ask yourself how you can help your audience. Why? Because it forces your focus outwards, away from you. Our energy changes when we are seeking to give instead of get.

This directly transfers to fundraising. Your targets, your hopes and fears can make you worry about whether you will succeed or fail in your important donor meeting. But in asking yourself how you can help the donor today, you leave these ego-driven concerns behind. As you become less needy and pushy your confidence increases. And you create a space in which the donor or pitch panel can say YES for their reasons, if they wish.