How Good is Your Poker Face?

We spend a lot of time leading workshops for our client companies, and we are often impressed with some of the insightful things that are shared in those sessions.

Some time ago, we were with one of our most significant client companies and a participant in the workshop, named Paul, started talking about the card game poker. At that point in the workshop, we were discussing body language and presence, and Paul equated the conversation to having a good “poker face” while playing cards. In other words, he was talking about maintaining a consistent presence when you are speaking, no matter what you are feeling inside. Good card players never reveal anything about their hand to their opponents. Bad poker players reveal a lot, through facial expression, or their comments, or their body language. Bad poker players are inconsistent. Good poker players are entirely consistent. You never know what they really have in their hand.

It was a brilliant point, and I had never thought about the direct connection between poker and communication skills. But Paul’s point was dead-on accurate. When we are giving a presentation, or negotiating a contract, or dealing with combative Q&A we often have strong feelings inside us. It’s totally natural to have strong feelings when you are in a tense or combative situation. Contracts and business may be at stake. Your reputation may be at stake. Someone may be trying to embarrass you, sometimes just for the fun of it. And in those tense moments, if you reveal what you are really thinking and feeling, via a bad poker face, you could lose negotiating leverage or reveal to your audience that you don’t really believe what you are saying.

When you are thinking about your communication skills, don’t spend ALL your time thinking about how to craft the message and create a slide deck that is solid. Those things are critical. But you also have to think about your delivery, AND part of your delivery will be your ability to mask your real emotions in times of stress. Make sure you keep a consistent, calm, positive demeanor, no matter what the situation is.

How good is your poker face? Your success may depend on it.

Good luck.

Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.