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Dear Goddess Of Public Speaking...
" Recently I spoke to a group of 20, and felt disconnected, like I was just going through the motions. I was really dissatisfied with myself afterward. How do I connect with participants from the start and stay present? " J.W. TRAINING OFFICER
" Speaking With Presence "
Despite our best intentions, sometimes we do do the human thing and "switch off", loosing our audience along the way. It happens to the best of us. It's great that you noticed and want to make sure it doesn't happen again. J.W., I congratulate your honesty in acknowledging your dissatisfaction with being less than you are and recognising your group deserves better.
I will explain how to start, stay and finish feeling connected and present with your listeners. But first, two definitions to ensure we understand each other:
Going Through The Motions
This is the opposite to "presence". Body is present; mind and spirit have left the building. Sometimes the audience is quicker to recognise memorised, disingenuous rote, than the speaker / trainer themselves. This is sad. Going through the motions leads to boredom, the dulling of creativity and a loss of credibility. It produces less than, the same old results.
Presence is the opposite to "going through the motions." Body, mind and spirit are working harmoniously, fully connected in the present moment. An audience "switches on" when they realise the speaker / trainer is authentic and available to them right here and right now. It charges the atmosphere and inspires trust, rapport and connection and generates credibility, energy and impact. This is exciting. Being present produces new paradigms, spontenaity, flexibility and empowered results.
How To Start, Stay & Finish With Presence
Start with presence, by preparing yourself in advance. The state of presence is a habit like any other and until it becomes second nature when you speak in public, you need to prepare the space you will step into, mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Recognising the importance of your presentation to you and others, provides the motivation and clarity for making time to prepare. Insufficient preparation is the most common public speaking mistake. When you don't like public speaking, there is a tendency to over prepare (obsess) or under prepare (avoid). Like Little Red Riding Hood, talk preparation needs to be "just right" for you. By designing your own preparation habit or ritual, you send yourself the message, "This talk is important, worth my time and I am going to be present for it."
What is your usual pattern of behaviour before a talk? Does it serve you or dishonour you?
Stay in presence, by accepting that you will move in and out of the present moment with your group or audience. That's life. The key is to not beat yourself up when you feel a disconnect and thus get preoccupied with your own story. Instead, stop, take a breath, connect with one person and give yourself permission to start again with them. Staying present is a series of small comings and goings riding on the ebb and flow of mindful awareness.
Finish with presence, by making it clear to everyone that you are indeed finishing. Use verbal clues with a clear instruction ("We'll wrap up in ten minutes and then I'll invite questions.") This will swing every participant's attention back to the present moment (as well as your own), alerting them to be prepared for all that your finish may entail (Q & A, assessment, feedback, special offers). Participants are usually most alert at the beginning and the end of a training session or presentation, so make the most of it by connecting with them strongly.
J.W., even if you felt disconnected throughout your training session, you can still finish with a good connection. Stay still when you acknowledge your group in completion, making genuine eye contact with one person at a time. Take your time and stay grounded and focussed, allowing participants to acknowledge you with whatever they offer, like a clap, cheer or nod, accept it graciously and finish your training session fully present, without your mind rushing off to the next thing.
Starting, staying and finishing with presence takes less than ten seconds. If you've got that, you can do it anytime, anywhere.
Rate between 1 and 10 how cool, calm and connected you feel:
When you speak and lead with natural ease and authenticity, you will be closer to 10. When you feel scattered, distracted or unconfident, you will be closer to 1.
What To Do: If you are above a 7 today, notice what's working well and keep doing it. Accept that daily variations in confidence and clarity are normal and natural.
If you are below a 7 today, practise the 6 minute Inner Calm exercise.