We’ve all felt that surge of panic or anxiety when standing up in front of a group of people, about to talk. Your body is smart, it reacts to stress, panic, or fear and tells you that something is way out of your normal, daily realm of existence. So how do we turn this around so that what the audience see is a composed presenter oozing physical presence;
‘Yikes, I am not in Kansas anymore’
Public speaking – like physical training and sport – requires training and practice; You need to put in the time if you want to take advantage of those speaking opportunities when they come up and really knock it out of the park so you get the result you want.
So where to start? The answer lies in our Physical Presence
Our physical presence is one big piece of the presentation skills puzzle. Combined with vocal presence, it helps establish an emotional connection with the audience along with the words we say. In this, our first of two Amy Cuddy TED Talks, Amy speaks about the impact our body language has on our chances for success.
Listen To Your Gut
We’ve all been guided by our ‘gut instinct’ at some point and with good reason. Our bodies are intricately and acutely sensitive to how we react to the outside world. The brain and gut are connected by an extensive network of Neurons and a highway of chemicals and hormones that constantly provide feedback.
Most of the time we make decisions from our brain, our intellect, and forget about what the ‘other brain’- our gut, is telling us. Have you ever felt ‘butterflies’ in your stomach? The ones you might feel when you’re in the first stages of love or attraction? We feel the same butterflies when we’re nervous of a talk we’re about to give. So the next time you’re stuck when you’re preparing a presentation, ask yourself, ‘What do I really want to talk about? What is my gut saying?’.
What Do You Want Them To Feel?
The impact of non-verbal messages are much stronger than words because the audience remembers them more and for longer. So, ask yourself what you’ve seen recently that made a speaker memorable? Was it the words they said or how they made you feel? Remember, what you feel up there as a presenter is what the audience gets. It’s like a mirror: What you feel, they feel. If you want the audience to feel excited, then find a way to manifest that in your own body. If it’s happy, then embody happiness.
Fake It Till You Become It
We’ve all heard the old adage ‘Fake it till you make it’, but it’s actually ‘Fake it till you become it’. Amy Cuddy did another TED Talk about physical indicators and gives scientific evidence supporting the theory that what we do physically effects how we feel. For example, smiling instantly makes us feel better. Even if it’s a fake smile manufactured by holding a pen between our teeth, we still get a release of positive energy. On the other side, slouching can make us feel defeated or depressed. Standing in a grounded, aligned posture with shoulders relaxed, feet hip width apart, and chest open elicits feelings of confidence and positivity and you will immediately exude physical presence
See It And Feel It
Michael Phelps won a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics because he was able to complete his heat without being able to see. His goggles filled up with water and he couldn’t see where he was going but because he had visualised that race over and over beforehand, he knew every stroke before he even got into the pool. This helped him be prepared for anything and when he couldn’t see, he didn’t panic.
In your preparation for a speech or presentation, sit down and breathe, close your eyes and see yourself giving your presentation See the room, feel where you’re going to move and when. See yourself smiling, see the audience. Go through every move so that when you actually present or go into the meeting, the situation is already familiar.
Prepare For Your Worst Case Scenario
This is a great one for dealing with nerves as well. Think of your worst case scenario, ie. losing your place or not remembering what comes next. Imagine it happening, and list the things you can do to deal with that situation. This way, if you feel prepared and can deal with the worst thing that could happen, then you be ready to handle anything else that comes along as well. Remember, it’s okay to make a mistake! It won’t effect your physical presence, in fact audiences are known to respond well to vulnerability. It makes you seem more human and helps them to connect with you.
Don’t wait until you step into the room for that high stakes meeting to prepare and put skills and techniques into place. Implement small changes beforehand and as you practice and prepare and you’ll reap the benefits tenfold. You’ll establish physical presence from the offset, be more able to connect with your audience, share your ideas, and get the results you want.
“ConfidentSpeak is a Voice and Communications consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland. We have worked with leading Irish and international companies and executives. Contact us for details on our range of corporate/private voice and communications programmes for executives, sales teams and technical professionals.”
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