We can learn a lot about being strong communicators from the characters in America's favorite epic space opera.

Staff Writer

Rogue One, the latest Star Wars entry, is topping box office charts this holiday season.

As leaders, public speakers, and presenters, we can learn a lot from the cast of characters that populate this popular saga. Here’s a fun primer:

1. Princess Leia teaches us:

Keep your hair away from your face. Not only does it make it easier to escape Storm Troopers, it also makes you appear more serious. If your hair gets in your way when you’re presenting, you’re going to push it out of the way (unwittingly). Given the laws of gravity, it will probably fall again, and you’ll push again. Soon, this becomes a distraction to you and to your listeners.

2. Darth Vader teaches us:

Take up space to assure others think of you as commanding and in control. Studies show that the more physical space you take up–standing tall and straight, keeping your legs about shoulder-width apart, and holding your hands away from your body–the more power you feel in your body, and the more power you project to others.

3. Ewoks teach us:

Sometimes it’s okay to speak differently from the people around you–with an accent, for example. People are people, and most of us don’t really notice (or mind) minor variations. In fact, it can be a distinguishing characteristic. For instance, an English accent in American sounds sophisticated and intelligent.

However, if an accent or speech impediment gets in the way of other people understanding you, it can be a problem. Work with a speech & voice coach to make sure that when you speak, people can hear you and understand you.

4. Yoda teaches us:

“Do or not do. There is no try.” In other words, when the spotlight hits you, it’s your one shot. Take it seriously from the start, and pay close attention to details.

One surefire way to be sure your message sticks and your presentation is memorable is to include stories–and to adopt the structure of stories. In short, start by introducing a problem that your audience is experiencing, propose your answers to the problem, then get into the weeds of the proposal.

5. R2-D2 and Chewbacca teach us:

Pay attention to body language. Every gesture and movement speaks! We have no idea what this robot is saying, but we understand him. That’s because we get lots of information from body language–even seemingly small, unimportant movements.

Studies show that some movements can undermine people’s trust in you, so be careful. Make sure your body is giving the same message as your mouth.

6. Obi-Wan Kenobi teaches us:

“Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them.” When your audience sits down to see your slide deck, remember that you control their attention. Compose slide headlines that are sentences, that make a point. Point to items on the screen so your listeners know where to look. Avoid lengthy tables or endless bullet points. The audience wants to know what all your information means to them.

If you lose control of their eyes, they’re minds may also wander. The danger is that they may miss–or worse, mistake–your message.

7. Jar Jar Banks teaches us:

It’s okay to be quiet. People pay attention to the silences between words as much as they pay attention to the words. Pause when you need to think or collect your thoughts. Allow yourself and your audience a chance to breathe. Don’t smother your message with words. The blue ribbon goes to he who says the most in the fewest words.

8. Han Solo teaches us:

“Don’t get cocky.” Whenever you stand up to speak, be certain that you’re not resting on your laurels. Rehearse before any talk, no matter how many times you’ve delivered it. Go over it to keep it fresh. Tweak it to make it that much more relevant to your listeners. “Winging it” never works.

9. Luke Skywalker teaches us:

Fear is normal, and maybe even necessary, if you’re going to rise to the occasion. In a classic exchange with Yoda, Luke assures him, “I won’t fail you. I’m not afraid.” Yoda responds: “You will be.”

This is true of most if not all public speakers. Stage fright doesn’t have to stop you though. Often, a few simple exercises will be enough to help you turn it around. Coaches can work with you to transform that fear into energy–and that energy is what will make you unstoppable as a speaker.

10. Qui-Gon Jinn teaches us:

“Your focus determines your reality.” Just as rehearsal is key to your delivery, prep work and planning are key to your message.

I like to recommend that people construct their presentations as stories. This makes it easy for your listeners to hook into your ideas, because when we identify with stories, we find meaning in them–subjective meaning.

We don’t have to be told the moral of the story, or hear a lecture to get the point. We follow the cause and effect of the speaker’s logic, and arrive–safe, sound, and convinced–at the end, the call to action.