7 Habits of an Exceptional Presenter

Mindful Presenter Maurice DeCastro presenting

How can you become a great presenter?

In the increasingly disruptive and unpredictable world of business, our minds are being challenged like never before. Always on technology, information overload and ever-increasing performance demands. These are just a few of the countless pressures confronting the human mind today. That’s just in the work place.

We spend a great deal of our lives on ‘auto-pilot’. Commuting to work, mowing the lawn, taking a shower and eating breakfast are mechanical tasks for many. The list is an extremely long one.

It takes courage and mindfulness to switch our ‘auto-pilot’ off. Especially, when we are crafting a business presentation.  These 7 habits will help you to become a mindful presenter.

Great Presenter Habit 1 – Me, now, why?

Sit quietly, breathe deeply and ask yourself the following questions:


Am I the right person to be speaking on this topic?

Is there someone else in the organisation who is far better placed to present this?


If I am the right person, do I have enough time to craft a story that respects and values my audience’s time?

Do I have enough time to research and build a compelling message?


You’ve established that you are the right person and you do have sufficient time. The next question to ask yourself is why?

Is this important?

Should they care?

Why a presentation; why can’t I just send an email?

Great  Presenter  Habit 2 – Beginner’s mind

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s, there are few.” – Shunryu Suzuki

It’s likely that the reason you have been called upon to speak is because you are an expert in your field. Either that, or know a great deal about your topic. When that’s the case our auto-pilot’s greatest value is speed; ‘Let’s get it done and get out of here’. Many presenters operating on ‘auto-pilot’ suffers from ‘The Curse of Knowledge’. You know things that the other person does not and you have forgotten what it’s like to not have this knowledge.

This can result in presenters inflicting ‘Death by Bullet Point’ on their unsuspecting audiences.

To avoid this, we need to cultivate the habit of starting out with the beginner’s mind. We have to switch off our ‘auto-pilot’. That means letting go of our preconceived ideas and opening our minds. We have to take the time to consciously challenge our assumptions and knowledge. See the issue with a fresh pair of eyes. Remember, your audience doesn’t have the knowledge and insight that you do. Putting ourselves in their shoes and setting out with the beginner’s mind  will leave our audience very grateful.

Great Presenter  Habit 3 – One thing

Mindful Presenters understand that multi-tasking is a myth.

When crafting a presentation, they focus on their audience and content at the exclusion of all other distractions. They don’t check and respond to emails at the same time. You won’t find them on LinkedIn or Twitter. They give their complete attention to the task at hand; their presentation.

Harvard psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert believe that people spend almost 47% of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re currently doing. Further research suggests that multi-tasking can make us up to 40% less productive.

We owe it to our audience to focus exclusively on our presentation.

Great Presenter Habit 4 – Self-awareness

Trying to connect with an audience without having connected with ourselves first is futile. In our presentation skills training workshops we spend as much time helping our clients understand their strengths, as we do their personal challenges.

Record yourself speaking. Ask colleagues to tell you your bad habits or what doesn’t work so well for you as a presenter. More importantly, focus on your strengths and what works well for you as a presenter now. At Mindful Presenter, our experience is that everyone has a gift; there are no exceptions.

Make the effort o understand and correct what may holding you back today as an effective presenter. Don’t stop there though. get some personal coaching to understand what works for you too.

Great Presenter Habit 5 – Internalise

One of the most common sources of anxiety relating to presenting and public speaking is fear. There are many constituents of fear. One of the most troublesome is the fear that we will forget what to say or stumble.

The antidote to that angst is to internalise your message. I don’t mean memorise it. I mean integrate it. In other words, becoming so comfortable with your message that if you left your notes on the train or your PowerPoint failed, you could still speak. Even without slides or notes,you could still hold a good account of yourself. You’ve taken the time to make your message a part of you.

What is the one thing that you want your audience to really understand and remember.

Internalising the very reason you are presenting will substantially reduce your anxierty.

Great Presenter Habit 6 – Self-compassion

Presenting and speaking is a challenging experience for many people.

Working on developing the habit of self-compassion is a powerful route to success. That means, creating a state of mental, emotional and physical kindness to ourselves.

The next time you feel nervous before or during a presentation be mindful of your thoughts and sensations. Listen to what you are actually saying to yourself. Tune into the way those thoughts are making you feel. As you do so, recognise and accept the reality that you are not alone. It’s part of being human and goes with the territory of public speaking.

Imagine what you would say to your best friend if they shared their anxious thoughts and feelings with you.

Would you be as critical and harsh with them as you are with yourself?  Would you reassure them by being kind and compassionate?

In the following video Dr. Kristin Neff explains how compassion is easy to understand when it comes to offering it to others. She then shares beautifully how we can apply the same thinking to ourselves in any situation. Dr. Neff reminds us that we can be just as kind and supportive to ourselves.

There is a wealth of resources available on her website https://self-compassion.org/ to help you to cultivate the habit of self-compassion.

Great Presenter Habit 7 – Presence

Presence is one of those words that most of us find difficult to accurately describe. Interestingly, we  tend to know it when we see it, because we feel it.

It comes from a sense of the way a presenter, walks, talks, breathes and connects. It’s not clumsy, stilted or awkward. It’s a graceful sense of self. One that allows a presenter to be in the room without fear of judgement, because they have something important to say.

Presence stems from awareness, which we began to consider in Habit 4. That said, it extends beyond the self. An important part of presence is understanding where your awareness can, does and will go. It involves directing your awareness consciously to cultivating more focus, presence, and peace to what matters most.

Dr. Dan Siegel is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine. He offers a number of very useful resources on his website which may help you to develop the habit of presence.

Whether you want to stop a bad habit or create a new and more helpful one, most people are looking for quick fixes. The internet is teeming with tools, tips, tricks and techniques for just about every habit you could imagine. Presenting and public speaking are not exempt.

Whilst many of these may offer some help, the truth is there is no quick fix. Mindfulness is the answer. It’s not easy, which is why most people avoid it especially when it comes to presenting. It takes time, courage, patience and practice but the investment pays enormous dividends.

If you want to stand out from the crowd and become a mindful presenter invest in these 7 habits.

If you need help becoming a great presenter:

– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.

– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.

– Get yourself some excellent presentation training



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