The power of the genuine smile
May 19, 2006
Whether you use slides or not in your live presentation, your talk is still visual. And while it is your words you want people to remember, they are more likely to recall from memory certain aspects of what they saw not heard. Our facial expressions, therefore, matter. For most presentation topics, a sincere smile, for example, can go a long way. You have heard it before, but I am here to tell you it's true. The smile and its affect is on my mind because last night in Osaka I was inspired by one of the world's greatest smiles and biggest musical talents. I was inspired not by a presenter, but from a performer, Yoshida Miwa, half of the legendary Japanese duo, Dreams Come True.
I've have been a Dreams Come True fan since the early '90s, and I finally got the chance to see them up close (concerts are routinely sold out, always). Just like I was with the Earth Wind & Fire concert I attended in January, I came away last night inspired by the music, the energy, and by the smiles. Most pop music in Japan (and the USA for that matter) is pretty awful stuff (oy vey, don't get me started...). But Dreams Come True are different: Yoshida Miwa, the 41-year old diva who fronts the group, can actually sing. She's a pop star with a wide range and clear soul, funk, and jazz influences. She's a vocalist who records and performs with the world's greatest musicians and engineers such as Harvey Mason, Joe Sample, Bob James, Maurice White, and many, many, more. Miwa and Masa Nakamura, the duo's composer and bassist (six string), are fluent English speakers and do much of their mixing and mastering in the USA, including their recent album The Love Rocks (MP3 samples).
Music aside, what I remember most about the nearly-three-hour concert was the infectious smiles of both Miwa and Masa. Smiles are indeed infectious. But the smile can not be faked (ever see a "Miss Universe" contest?) or forced. You can try to fake a smile, but won't people figure it out? Probably. This article in Scotsman.com reports that while genuine smiles can give observers good feelings, "fake smiles of royalty and politicians are detected and have the opposite effect, giving the person an untrustworthy and hypocritical image." We all can recognize an insincere smile. But a presenter or entertainer who actually looks like she is happy to be there (because she really is) is half way there to succeeding in getting her message across. (Can you spot a fake smile?)
A genuine smile can make all the difference. Check out this article by Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D. Sharma points out that there are essentially two types of smiles, the "Duchenne smile" and the "Pan American." The Duchenne smile is the genuine smile, characterized by movement of the muscles around the mouth and also the eyes. The Pan American smile is the "fake' smile and involves voluntary movement around the mouth only. This is the polite smile you may see from a flight attendant, for example.
"A smile results from a part of ourselves enjoying a gift of nature."
-- Philip Toshio Sudo, Zen 24/7
"Relax, it's only a presentation!" Always good advice. Many engaging, dynamic, interesting people lose their interesting personality in a presentation due anxiety and fear about making mistakes, etc. A natural smile? Forget it -- they're not enjoying the experience. As a result, neither is their audience. It's up to us to change our attitudes. Only we can decide to enjoy the experience and look at it as a chance to share and learn, learning even from our mistakes. By truly relaxing, a true smile may emerge...having a positive affect on our audience and on us.
More on Dreams Come True
What a treat to live in Japan and get to witness such a rare talent up close as Yoshida Miwa and Nakamura Masa. I thank Miwa and Masa for their beautiful music. What I'll remember most about the evening is the energy, the sincerity, and the smiles. Amazing. Inspiring. Memorable.
For those of you who are interested, here are some samples of Dreams Come True to give you a feel for Miwa's voice, wonderful presence, and engaging smile.
• A recent performance off the latest album. No lip-synching here (or ever) -- this woman has an amazing range and power, especially when you consider she weighs about 44kg (98 pounds) soaking wet. (Another taping of the same song.)
• "Song of Joy" video shot in NYC (English version).
• "Love Letter"