“I'm so solid as a rock, they just can't stop me now!” - Rihanna

by Michael Rickwood —

In 2012 Rihanna tweeted this simple declaration, and she was right! How can being as solid as a rock help us as speakers? 

This simple tweet has always inspired me. It’s obviously very boastful but in the years that followed this quote she’s managed to be one of this generation’s most successful and resilient pop artists who still has a great following today. Many others do not last as long. As a performer, artist and businesswoman, she has built an entire brand empire with millions of fans and followers and has given back to the community, raising millions for children’s charities. She has demonstrated that she is as solid as they come. She is originally from the beautiful coral rock of Barbados, a Windward Island in the Caribbean where I have spent many holidays and which is close to my heart. 

We hear the old adage ‘as solid as a rock’ a lot. Neither brittle as granite nor cold as stone but rather coming from a solid, immovable place. A virtuous place of dependability for our loved ones, friends and  colleagues. A place of conviction, love, respect, patience and trust. If we presenters (and above all leaders) could harness this power of being as solid as a rock would we not be unstoppable? Not only for ourselves but also for the people close to us. But how can we achieve this and maintain it while under pressure with fears, doubts, criticism and insecurities that lacerate our power every day? 

It’s no easy task for certain, but one thing is true: when we become like rock, or a mountain, a grounded force of power, people come to us. It’s attractive.

Here are fivequalities that make a rock in my view: 

First Conviction: Finding the meaning that will resonate with your audience of listeners. Why are you giving this talk specifically for them but also for yourself? Can you keep it simple, without the clutter of doubt or of hiding behind complexity? What’s the one word or one idea that you can remember easily that drives the meaning of this talk? Can you distill it into one sentence? Keep it at the forefront of your mind. 

Next Respect: have you prepared? Have you done the work for yourself and for your mission? Do you have respect for the audience? What needs to be done to achieve this? Practice, review and feedback and then practice again. A good work ethic will garner good vibes and appreciation.

Then Patience: has the preparation you’ve done been methodical or rushed? On the day itself, when you take the stage, are you taking our time and breathing? Can you show compassion for your audience despite your fears?

Next is Trust: do you trust yourself during the event? Trust the preparation you have done? Even trust the audience? Trust the pauses and silence that you use. 

And finally Love: that sounds perhaps a little stretched in this context but I ask you, what powers you? What can you connect to outside of yourself that grounds you? When you take the stage ask yourself: what helps make you a rock? 

There are practical things that we can do to improve our grounding, particularly if we don’t feel grounded. The most important thing is stance. Planting the feet firmly and leaning into the balls of the feet. Keeping the legs buoyant. The wall exercise, which is an exercise that I work with a lot, helps to ground my speakers. But simply placing your hand on a solid object beside you, while on stage, such as a podium or a table, can give you extra grounding during your talks. 

Thomas Jefferson once said: “In matters of principle, stand like a rock.” Not always an easy task and even he struggled with this. But all leaders need to understand this and some have proved it beautifully throughout history. We are seeing too many world leaders who only have their ambition guiding them: that is why the message is rarely consistent. Ambition alone has no guiding star. This will not make you a rock. Only conviction, respect, patience, trust and love.