Whether you’re in front of a small group of people, a boardroom or even on a TED stage, having eyeballs glued to you while you present can be terrifying.
My first public speaking moment was a tragedy, and it was captured (for better or worse) on video, one which my parents have treasured for many years.
This nervousness followed me throughout middle school, high school and even well into college. I know it was holding me back from my potential.
Looking back, I can’t believe that was me.
Since I found meditation, which I’ve been practicing for many years now, I’m confident it has had a significant impact on advancing my presentation technique further. And I believe it can for you as well.
Let’s get started.
Visualization is simply a technique to create a mental image of a future event, and when we can visualize our desired outcome, we can begin to believe and “see” the possibility of achieving it. Social scientist Frank Niles explains how visualization works,
” Visualization works because neurons in our brains, those electrically excitable cells that transmit information, interpret imagery as equivalent to a real-life action. When we visualize an act, the brain generates an impulse that tells our neurons to “perform” the movement. This creates a new neural pathway — clusters of cells in our brain that work together to create memories or learned behaviors — that primes our body to act in a way consistent to what we imagined. All of this occurs without actually performing the physical activity, yet it achieves a similar result.”
So how can you use visualization to be an amazing presenter? Take 5 or 10 minutes and follow the steps below:
- Relax: Find a quiet place, sit down and take a couple of deep breathes to let go of all the tension, and slowly close your eyes.
- Start imagining the stage: Begin to think about the room where you will be presenting. Is it dark? Light? Who is in the audience? What are you wearing? Is is the morning or afternoon? Think about your environment until you have a clear and defined picture in your mind.
- First person view: Imagine looking at your audience, clicker in hand. Feel the air on your skin, and your voice as you go through your presentation like an expert. Focus on the how the audience will receive the information. How does the audience react after you are done? How do you want them to feel? How do you feel after giving a killer presentation?
- The Wrap Up: Allow yourself to slowly come back. You completed your practice and the image slowly fades. When you feel ready, open your eyes again.
Although the average human lung capacity is about 6 liters of air, we typically inhale much less. Oxygen is the most vital component we as humans need to live, yet it’s fascinating how little of our lung capacity we actually use. Deep breathing, used in various meditative practices, helps get nourishing oxygen into your body. Blood that is rich in oxygen will help you feel better, give you more energy, reduce your anxiety and help clear your lungs.
- Take 3 deep breathes, filling your stomach, counting to 4
- Hold for 2 counts
- Release your breathe slowly, counting to 8
- Repeat 6-8 times
Allow Yourself to Become Nervous and Smile
I will assume that you have done the due diligence of rehearsing your presentation, like any great speaker. But no matter how much prep that you might have done, it’s natural to feel a bit nervous. I still do, even after several years of giving presentations. I look at it positively, as a qualifier of sorts. I’m grateful that I’m in a position to be nervous to be even giving a presentation, an opportunity that many people don’t have. I allow myself the freedom to get nervous.
Be Mindful and Read Your Audience
Being able to be mindful of your audience on the fly and adjust your delivery can be an effective tactic to bring people back in. Some ways this could be done is to alternate volume and pitch while you speak, put more energy behind your delivery and maybe even call out on a few members of the audience.
When engaging with anybody, whether on stage or in a casual conversation, how we use eye contact plays a critical role in effective delivery. Our eyes are used to direct attention, connect, persuade, surprise and provide comedic relief. If you’e ever seen a bored nearly asleep gaze someone in the audience has, that is direct feedback you should be heeding. Some of the greatest speakers I have seen, know how to connect directly with the audience, looking directly at their eyes. This helps the audience members invest their attention further into your material and you as a speaker. It also shows that you are confident and exude mastery over your material.
Take the time to have a conversation with yourself and re-live your presentation in as much detail as you can remember. Put yourself back in front of the audience. Here are some tips to help get you started on your personal reflection:
- Write down the topic of your presentation and your desired intention for presenting
- Write down three things you did well in your presentation
- Write down three things you need to improve on
- Reflect on if you were able to successfully deliver on your intention
- Develop a plan to work on the points of improvement