I often find that the most valuable presentation tips are the ones you simply don’t hear or read every day and that’s because as powerful as they are many speakers lack the commitment to apply the more challenging ones.
Picturing yourself in the comfort of your own mind succeeding at something before you actually do it is an extremely powerful tool known as visualization. Regardless of the pursuit anyone who has achieved excellence in anything understands the value of seeing before doing.
As a widely recognized technique which can be used to influence performance across a broad range of activities visualization for high impact presenting can be very effective when used well.
You don’t have to be a top athlete, musician or artist to benefit from using visualization, in my experience as a presentation coach its power can be harnessed in business too.
One way of heightening the impact of seeing the successful outcome of an activity before you even begin it is to write about it in your diary as though the event has already taken place.
It’s an exercise I often use to good effect when asked to present and so I thought you may be interested in learning about it and adapting it for your own personal use.
72 Hours Before
Three days before I’m due to give an important presentation I sit quietly in the quiet of my own mind and make a diary entry. Knowing that I’ve already carefully researched and crafted my content and that I’ve practiced my delivery I now write as though the presentation has already taken place.
I write in my diary imagining it is the evening of the day of the presentation itself; it’s all over.
The idea behind the exercise is to allow me to project myself forward in time to envision everything I did on the run up to the all-important presentation and on the day itself. That allows me to foresee and predict with absolute clarity exactly what I need to do a few days before I am due to speak to fully prepare myself for the event.
Rather than using the rest of this article to set out how to make the entry I thought it may be more helpful to share one I recently made in my own diary. Every presentation I make is important to me but this particular one was to an audience of several hundred people at a learning and development conference.
I really wanted to see everything before it happened.
Having that early night last night was a great move.
I’m so pleased that having spent so much time preparing my presentation that I used my time so wisely over the last few days. Stepping up my fitness regime to burn off all of that excess adrenaline, eating from a more nutritional perspective and taking time out for my mind to meditate and slow down the noise and doubts really paid off today.
Having had that early night I woke up this morning with the energy and consciousness to tell myself the moment my eyes opened that today was going to be a great day and that I was ready to make an impact and a difference.
It was an early start rising at 5am but I have to say it really was worth it.
It wasn’t easy but I put my dressing gown on opened the back door and stood in total solitary silence for 10 minutes. It felt like the whole world was still asleep and I was at bliss with just me and my thoughts.
I knew in those few quiet moments that the sun was rising and setting all over the world, tides were moving in and out and stars shone with the same brightness thousands of miles apart. That made rising so early feel like such a great thing to do on such an important day. It still feels good now.
Today was a day to be heard and to make a difference.
I’m so pleased that I had my haircut yesterday because I look and feel so much smarter.
Before going to bed last night I made certain that my two favourite shirts were hanging up clean and crisp ready for the morning. I didn’t need two of course but I didn’t want to take the chance of spoiling one by cutting myself shaving in the morning or spilling tea down my front.
After 10 beautiful minutes staring up at the stars and contemplating the vastness of the universe around me and the brilliance of the world that surrounded me every moment I stepped back inside.
Grounded, centred and focused I then sat quietly in the warmth meditating. The peace and grace I felt just sitting in silence for 10 minutes focusing on nothing but my breath was so powerful.
Despite the solitude and meditation I could still feel the noise and anxiety creeping in. The self-doubt, the uncertainty and feeling of inadequacy about who on earth would really want to listen to me present today was very discomforting.
Instinctively as difficult as it was at such an early hour I went for a run. Burning that adrenaline, cortisol and other debilitating chemicals generated by such toxic thoughts served me well.
A well-deserved shower followed by a nutritional breakfast set me up beautifully for the morning.
I’m pleased I polished my shoes last night as that was one less thing to do today.
Rested, energised and nourished I drove to the venue listening to one of my favourite TED talks by Sir Ken Robinson ‘Do schools kill creativity?
That really gave me the lift I needed this morning.
As soon as I arrived I headed straight to the room I would be speaking in had a chat and thorough review with the audio visual team, ran through my slides and made sure everything was set.
I’m so pleased that I’d left plenty of time so that I had the luxury of spending 10 minutes in the room on my own to literally just be in the room.
I absolutely love that feeling of just taking time to be totally present in the room.
I stood where I knew I would be speaking from and did nothing else but take in the room. The temperature, the sounds, the air-conditioning, lighting, everything.
When I felt that I owned my own space I then spent a few minutes sitting in a few of the seats the audience would be sitting in as I wanted to see things from their perspective.
That was time well spent so then I made my way to the gents where I spent a few minutes stretching my voice with a few short vocal exercises. In the process I received some rather disapproving looks but that was something I was used to and prepared for. Engaging my audience with my voice as well as my content was of paramount importance so a little embarrassment was a very small price to pay.
Just when I thought it couldn’t feel more embarrassing I moved on to practice a few stretching and breathing exercises and that’s when I really got some funny looks.
I guess it was when I started vigorously shaking my limbs and really tensing and relaxing my facial muscles that others began to feel really uncomfortable.
Voice stretched, muscles moved and relaxed, breathing all done I went back to the room and sat quietly for 5 minutes at the back of the room.
There in the quiet of my own mind I imagined my audience smiling, relaxing, sitting attentively forward looking completely engaged. I saw them participating, asking questions and giving me a rapturous round of applause.
Now in my mind it was time to mingle with the audience and get to know a few people as they entered the room.
Everyone seemed so pleasant.
Today was an amazing day it really was a day to be heard and to make a difference.
Regardless of profession all of the best performers understand the importance of picturing themselves succeeding in their minds before they actually do what they do in real terms.
For presenters it takes time, discipline, focus and practice but the very activity of writing in detail in a diary exactly what you saw happen before and during the presentation is an immensely powerful tool.
Many people will agree that intellectually it makes sense but that’s really quite irrelevant; the important question is will they have the heart to actually do it?
Try it for yourself and let me know what happens.
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