Presenting in 2019 and beyond-Mindfulness is the key

Number of 2019 to 2023 on asphalt road surface with marking lines

I believe that the future of  high impact presenting and public speaking revolves entirely around mindfulness.

As we head toward the end of 2018 we have seen yet another a year where world leaders have unknowingly given licence to speakers to say what they want, however they want to, with little regard for substance, truth or the emotional impact on others.  

Many of the worlds high profile politicians have arguably mastered the art of speaking with confidence and impact in public and those who do so with compassion and mindfulness can teach us a great deal. Outside of politics however, presenting and speaking in public is still a skill most professionals are working hard to develop and often feel very anxious at the very thought of.

My latest search for ‘presentation skills’ on Amazon yielded over 10,000 results with Google trumping them by 750 million. 

Keep your hands out of your pockets, don’t fidget and whatever you do remember to make good eye contact are a just a few of the obvious tips you will find during your search. It’s all out there and it seems there’s nothing really new. 

We actually all know what it takes to be a great speaker. 

The journey however begins far earlier than learning to use our vocal cords and moving meaningfully. The future of high impact presenting also doesn’t revolve around software, simulators and just smiling either.

It’s about spirit. 

Today it’s quite acceptable to talk about mind, body and spirit when it comes to our personal growth and development but sadly it doesn’t seem quite so acceptable in business or politics.

I’d like to challenge that. 

Spirit is that invisible and unspoken force that forms our attitude, presence and being. It’s the mysterious element which animates us and paradoxically makes us all one, yet each completely unique. I believe that the future of public speaking and presenting is about bringing people closer together rather than driving them further apart.

It’s not surprising that most experts focus on the mind and body when sharing public speaking advice because any mention of the word spirit and most people start thinking about God or religion. 

If you are one that carries such an image and it doesn’t work for you personally you can relax as that’s not where we are heading in this article. 

It is a little controversial though, as while many believe that we are simply the existence of carbon melded with a few proteins I can’t help feeling there is something else going on that we can’t quite put our finger on yet.

My reference to ‘spirit’ is the sense that we live in a vast and complex universe inhabited by over 7.2 billion of us in which we still don’t know everything. It seems to me that the only thing that scientists and theologians appear to agree on when it comes to the nature of the universe and existence is that it’s all energy. 

So if it makes you feel more comfortable then when you see the word spirit perhaps consider this simply as energy.

Wouldn’t it be beautiful if the power of the human spirit was to be used through public speaking in a way that we’ve never seen before to unite those 7.2 billion people rather than separate them even more?

The route to the human spirit is mindfulness.

So where do you start? 

A great speaker is someone who:

Knows their subject inside out

– Researches and understands their audience

Cares deeply about their audience and understands the full impact and consequence of their words

– Uses the full range of their voice, pitch, tone, tempo, rhythm, intonation and volume

– Crafts colourful and creative slides ( if they use them)

– Uses eye contact brilliantly

– Makes powerful gestures 

– Tells stories

– Speaks with passion

– Owns the stage, yet leaves their ego at the front door

As you can see, it takes a great deal to be a good speaker and it all revolves around mindfulness.

Lose the mask 

Many speakers have conditioned themselves to see their presentation as a performance where their job is to entertain the judges who are rating them. They don’t see a room full of human beings; they see a polling station of experts getting ready to vote on how well they’ve performed. 

The paradox is that what the audience wants to see more than anything is the real you, not the performing you or the corporate spokesperson. If the ‘real’ you however, is inclined to separate and divide people rather than unite them then that’s not what your audience needs.

Every speaker feels some level of nervousness or anxiety regardless of their experience. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to just walk up to the platform to speak openly and in a clear heartfelt way embrace our audience without any angst?  Equally, wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to feel the desperate need to entertain or impress.

What’s stopping us?

It’s simply not our experience of life.

For many of us speaking in front of a group is synonymous with ridicule, judgment and pain. When we were younger a great number of us were strongly encouraged not to be ourselves and to focus a little more on conforming. 

So today we take to the podium and most of us sound the same. 

To lose the mask we have to first remember who we really are before we learned to construct it as the speaker who sounds just like the rest of our colleagues.

None of us were born with the insecurities, perceived flaws and hang ups we have today, we had to work really hard to get them. The exciting thing is that we can not only shed them all because they are not real, we can reclaim our power to be the best of who we are.  If however, we use our power to divide rather than unite people I would argue that it is better to stay silent.

Be still 

We each have thousands of thoughts every single day many of which are recycled, repetitive ones with a great number that are also negative.

That is not how we arrived here. 

We turned up out of nowhere to be now here as a completely blank canvass with the potential to be anything we want; including a great speaker. 

Then came the noise :

‘Who wants to listen to me?’

‘They’ll probably know more than me anyway’

‘I’m just not a good speaker’

Our job is to be still, close our eyes, breath and silence the noise. None of it is true, it’s just mental turbulence that will calm itself as we become still.

Just be 

My son is all grown up now but I remember taking him to Disney World when he was a small boy. Disney, the happiest place on earth with so much to experience, see and do and yet he often still managed to say he was bored and there was nothing to do. 

One day I asked him why he always had to be doing something and why he couldn’t just ‘be’. It clearly wasn’t the wisest of questions to ask a 5 year old. 

I’ve since learned that the insatiable appetite to ‘do’ is just as alive and flourishing in most adults today as it was for my son as a child. When the time comes for you to present do whatever it takes to get to the venue and room you will be speaking in as early as you can to make certain that no one else will be there. 

Spend as long as you need to just being in the room. 

You don’t need to do anything or think anything, just allow yourself to truly be in the room. 

 Love your audience 

Quantum physicists have told us over and over again that everything in the entire universe is made out of energy, including us. That includes all conscious activity such as our thoughts, intentions and even love. When we recognise and accept the reality that absolutely everything is energy including our thoughts and emotions it can serve us extremely well when presenting to our audience.

Love isn’t something you reserve exclusively for family; it’s a gift you can give to anyone. 

The great presenters feel a personal sense of connection with their audience, they want to help them and share their passion for their message. 

If you love your audience they will love you back.

Whilst I am crafting every aspect of my presentation for my audience I try to do so in the mind-set of love, respect and appreciation. That means I regard my audience as individuals who have hopes, dreams and aspirations as well as anxieties, fears and uncertainties just like me. 

In the same way that I am a husband, father, son and brother I see every one of my audience as fellow human beings who are doing the best they know how to in the moment and deserve the best life has to offer. 

My job is to help them feel better than they did before they sat down

As I enter the room I will be presenting in, before I check out the AV, air conditioning or lighting I take a few moments to fill the room with my love. As my audience arrive I then do exactly the same. I send them all my personal thoughts and feelings of love. 

My presentation is not about me, it’s about them and whatever I say I want to be sent and received in an energy and spirit of love.

That’s a little deep for an article of presentation skills I know but before you dismiss it try it out for yourself and watch what happens. 

I read a blog recently by another presentations skills coach who suggested that the as far as presenting is concerned ‘We’re in the process of evolving…and the final stage of our development is just around the corner’ – Simon Morton, 3 reasons to be cheerful about the future of presentations 

I don’t agree 

I believe that we are just beginning the journey and still have a very long way to go. Some of the biggest and most successful brands in the world are still presenting in much the same way they were at least 10 years ago and it’s time for a revolution not an evolution. That seismic shift does not however mean becoming a maverick to challenge the status quo without due mindfulness of the damage which may be caused. 

Mindfulness is the key to the future of presenting 

The future of presenting rests firmly in our ability to authentically connect with each other. That means creating a climate and culture where people look forward to learning from presentations rather than dreading them. 

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