Green Room


Director’s Notes

Beyond Words: How Physicality and Vocal Presence Shape Your Storytelling Impact

March 22, 2024

A group of people is on a stage of a theater in a circle.

You are the message

When we talk, it's easy to think that it's all about the words we're using. But the truth is, there's so much more happening. It's the way you pause, how you move your hands, the different tones in your voice—that's where the real magic of connection happens. Whether you're a public speaker, a storyteller, a coach, or the voice behind a podcast, these subtle signals you send without saying a word? They're what make your message stick, not just in the ears, but in the hearts of your audience.

Storytelling isn't just about lining up the right words. It's about how you invite people into your story. To really get them to feel something, to go on this emotional ride with you, you've got to pull out all the stops—use everything you've got. Your gestures, your voice, the way you stand, it all counts. Here, we're going to explore those parts of storytelling that don't often get the spotlight—the parts beyond words that make your stories resonate and feel alive.

Body Language: The Silent Symphony

Consider a moment when a speaker left an indelible mark on you. Was it only their words that shook your soul? Or was it the conductor's baton they held in their posture, the earnestness in their eyes, the open palm facing the sky, inviting you into their world?

Because if it was really just about the words — you'd just read it. Grab the PDF. Pick up the book. Peruse the blog. But there is something about the choices someone makes (or doesn't make) when they are speaking their story that changes the meaning (or makes the meaning).

Our bodies speak volumes in hushed tones; and sometimes scream without using voice. They bridge the expanse between us and our audiences, carrying the weight of our words on the wings of gesture. A forward lean to signal engagement, a steady gaze to spark connection, an inclusive sweep of the arm to gather your listeners close—the choreography of body language is potent in its subtlety.

One of my favorite examples of this happened when I was coaching my client, Carolyn Stern, on a keynote. There's a part where she talks about not talking to someone who means a lot to her (I don't want to ruin the surprise for you when you see in her person), and I asked her to just take some slow steps backwards as she said something like “and for the first time, I didn't talk to them for months.” That small move signified putting distance between herself and the other party.

When we stand before our fellow souls, we must become alchemists, transforming the air around us with the metals of movement. Authentically embodying our speech breathes life into narratives, crafting a magnetism that draws others into our crafted worlds.

Have you ever thought about what happens after your words end, how they linger? It's those stories, the ones that stick with you, gripping not just your ears but seeping deep into your heart. Storytelling isn't a game of just wordplay. It's about pulling folks into your universe, making them feel, live through the highs and lows alongside you. And buddy, it's not just about what you say. Your moves, the tone of your laughter, the stance you take, it's all part of the magic. We're about to dig into those storytelling gems that don't always get the limelight—those non-verbal cues that give your stories a pulse.

The Power of Silence and Motion

Ever been floored by someone's tale, and it wasn't just what they said but how they stood there, like a maestro with an invisible baton, their hopeful gaze, the way their hand reached out to the stars, pulling you right into their saga?

Our bodies, they've got their own quiet language, telling tales in the silence between words. They close the distances, making heavy words light and carrying them across to the hearts listening. Leaning in because you're truly into it, locking eyes to light up a spark, sweeping your arm to wrap everyone in close—this dance of gestures, it speaks volumes without making a sound.

When we're up there, sharing pieces of our soul, we gotta morph into something extraordinary, turning the air charged with our story, using nothing but the silent cues our bodies give off. Being real, embodying our tales, that's what pulls people in, making them want to stay awhile in the worlds we weave.

The Melody in Your Voice

In every word we utter, there is an opportunity for music or for monotony. Vocal variety and tonality are the paints with which we color our storytelling canvas. They carve the emotional contours of our tales, shaping the audience's internal landscape as we narrate.

Your voice has the power to wander through the shadows of your listeners' minds, to echo in the chambers of their hearts. The soft lilt of well-placed whisper, the resonant strength of a confident declaration—these are the tools of a master storyteller harnessing the symphony of speech to captivate an audience.

When it comes to your voice — it can sometimes seem like a piano where someone just keeps playing the same key over and over. Not to mean that they are speaking in the monotone style parodied by Ben Stein (remember that guy?). But that we just don't use the full range available to us. With our voice, we can make so many choices — the pacing and speed of our words, the volume we use (ever lowered to a near whisper in an arena? It's captivating), the energy of the words, the places where we pause, and the pitch of the voice. Our job is to explore what's possible to deliver the message.

The Dance of Pacing

Pacing is much like breathing in storytelling; it's the rhythm of your narrative heartbeat. Fast pacing can rush your audience through a whirlwind of excitement, mirroring the chaos of a chase or the rapid heartbeat of a suspenseful disclosure. Slow it down, and you invite your listeners into a reflective space, allowing them to savor each word like a drop of rain in a drought. The tempo of your story controls the pulse of your audience’s attention, guiding their emotional journey through the peaks and valleys you've meticulously mapped out.

Volume's Whispering Impact

The volume of your voice wields a subtle, yet profound, influence. It's more than merely being loud or soft; it's an instrument of emphasis and mood setting. A sudden drop to a whisper can pull an audience in closer, hanging onto your every word with bated breath. In contrast, a bold increase can jolt them into high alert, fully engaged and ready to move with you to the next moment. The manipulation of volume speaks directly to the hearts of your listeners, inviting them into the intimacy of a shared secret or rallying them together in anticipation.

Energy – The Story's Pulse

Energy in storytelling is the spark that ignites the connection between you and your audience. It’s the vibrancy and passion behind your words that transform them from mere sounds to compelling messages. High energy can make your story leap into life, creating a magnetic pull that's impossible to resist. However, a more subdued energy can draw your audience into a deep, reflective empathy, connecting them intimately to the emotional currents flowing beneath your story.

The Power of a Pause

Never underestimate the power of a pause. It's the white space in your storytelling canvas, the moment of silence that amplifies the sound that follows. Strategic pauses give your audience time to digest complex ideas, anticipate what’s coming next, and feel the weight of your words. In the space of a pause, you grant your listeners the freedom to fully experience their own reactions and connect with the narrative on a deeper level.

Pitch – Crafting the Emotional Landscape

Finally, pitch paints the emotional landscape of your story. The highs and lows of your vocal pitch can mirror the emotional highs and lows of your narrative, guiding your audience through a sensory experience of your storytelling. A sudden leap to a high pitch can heighten tension, making hearts race with excitement or fear, while a lower pitch might soothe and calm, drawing your audience into a state of introspection. Your pitch is a powerful tool for making your story felt, not just heard.

Harnessing Presence to Captivate

Saturate the space with your spirit. Physical presence is the gravitational pull that anchors the flight of your words. It thrives on the authenticity of your stance and the vibrancy of your being.

You are the director of this spectacle, and your audience has come to see the masterpiece you unveil—not solely through your script but through the energy with which you imbue each performance. Your presence is the prism through which the light of your story is refracted, spanning a spectrum of emotions that can be seen and felt.

You know that electrifying moment when someone walks into a room and, without uttering a single word, captures the entire space? It's as if they bring with them an energy so palpable, so vibrant, it's like a storm sweeping in, leaving goosebumps in its wake. This is not just about physical appearance or the audible cadence of their voice; it's the raw, undeniable essence of being that they exude. This same phenomenon unfurls when we listen to a storyteller, whether they're commanding the stage, whispering into a podcast mic, or speaking passionately at an event. Their presence transcends the physical confines of the room and seeps into our very being, pulling us into the world they weave with their words. It's magical, this ability to both anchor us firmly in the moment and liberate our imaginations to roam free. This, this intersection of physical and ethereal, is where the true power of storytelling lies.

The Body Keeps the Story

To all who stand upon the stage of influence, yours is the power to weave vibrations into visions, and movements into memories. Your narrative awaits the breadth of your essence, and your audience thirsts for the connection that only you can provide. Step forward with both humility and boldness, for you are more than the weaver of words—you are the sculptor of silences, the composer of cadences, the beacon of presence.

This is the work . My approach blends the directorial finesse of Hollywood with the depth of genuine human exchange. Refine your storytelling craft as we explore the artistry behind the impactful conveyance of your message. Together, we will venture beyond words and awaken the full spectrum of your communicative power.

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Hey babes!

I'm Mike and I'm here to blow your mind. My work is all about transformative storytelling, embodied narratives, and soulful truth-telling — where magic and healing alchemize, turning stages into sanctuaries of transformation.

Start here:

What's A Keynote Director Anyway? Why Your Public Speaking Coach Really Isn't Helping You

The Anatomy of a Powerful Keynote: Nine Questions Your Keynote Must Answer for Transformation

Mike Ganino, keynote director



My approach is all about transforming your relationship with your voice, body, and story. It's one thing to write about it - it's another to take a breath and speak the words out loud.

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