When it comes to presenting what you say is of paramount importance but disregard to the way you say it can undermine and destroy every good intention you have. Most presenters understand the need to project confident, open body language when delivering an important message but there’s a lot more you can do other than to stand tall, smile and uncross your arms.
I read an interesting blog this morning entitled ‘The Simple Little Trick That Will Make Audiences Trust You’ which contained some sound advice although the title concerned me a little. Trust isn’t something you should have to ‘trick’ your audience into as if you have it within you to give they will feel it.
Here are a few tips you don’t hear every day about how to prepare and use the language your body elicits to help you to connect with your audience.
1) Take a jump
I like to be grounded before I begin any important presentation which to me means being fully present, stable and poised ready for action. The starting point of which is being comfortable in my own skin so that I feel it and my audience see it.
The best way I have found to achieve that emotional and energetic presence is to practice jumping; really, I mean it.
I know it sounds ridiculous but it works. Let me explain.
It’s not something you can readily do when you’re already in front of the audience as they may think you’re a little crazy. It’s something you do several times before you take to the platform and on it if you can before they arrive.
– Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your arms relaxed by your side
– Your neck and head are facing forward
– Bend your knees and jump as high as you can
As you land back on your feet take a few moments to notice just how good it feels to be back on your feet stable and grounded with a renewed sense of energy.
If you can’t do it immediately before you speak then take the time to do so whenever you can before-hand and take that feeling with you.
2) Walk on fire
For my 40th birthday I flew over to New Jersey to do the ‘fire walk’ with Tony Robbins. My wife thought I was going through a mid-life crisis which I probably was but I learned an immensely valuable life lesson which also helped me enormously when speaking in public.
For those of you who don’t know the ‘fire walk’ is where you walk over fifteen feet of burning coals in your bare feet. I learned 3 things that helped me to succeed which I now teach in our presentation skills workshops every week.
Focus – Where I consciously choose to focus my attention in any given moment will determine the way I think, feel and move.
In other words, if my focus was on the red hot fire searing from the coals it’s unlikely I’d have completed the walk unscathed. What was far more empowering was to focus walking on a bed of cool moss. Putting my attention on striding across the finish line leaping into the air with a huge smile on my face as I high fived Tony Robbins in awe of my success also helped a great deal.
Language – Imagine what would have happened if half way across the coals I found myself saying: “I’ll never do it” or “I’m going to make such a fool of myself”I think we can agree I probably wouldn’t have gotten very far.
As I was already focusing on the idea that I was walking across a bed of cool moss in my mind my mantra for the short time I was walking across the coals was ‘cool moss…cool moss’; followed by ‘Yes, yes, yes, yes’.
As silly as it may sound as the old saying goes ‘don’t knock it until you’ve tried it’ because it works.
Physiology – My job in those few moments was to look ahead and slightly upwards walking straight and at a normal pace.
Holding my body in a strong, confident and purposeful stance was key to supporting my focus, the language I used in my internal dialogue and therefore my results.
The next time you’re about to present ask yourself whether what you are focused on, telling yourself and how you are holding your body is helping or hindering you.
Warning & Disclaimer: Fire walking is potentially extremely dangerous and under no circumstances should you try this activity without the supervision of a fully qualified and registered instructor.
3) Talk to your face
Rest assured that if your facial expressions don’t match the words that are coming out of your mouth then you may as well wrap up and close your presentation. Your audience can see every smile, smirk and grimace and they depend on your expressions to find meaning in your words.
If you are telling your audience how excited or passionate you feel about the topic you are presenting but your face tells a different story guess which they will believe.
When it comes to presenting our face is often forgotten. It’s the last thing we tell to look confident, excited or happy. If there’s any incongruence between what your face is telling your audience against the words you are using they will believe the face every time.
You don’t need to go to evening classes to learn how to act and in fact we would highly recommend that you don’t, as that wouldn’t do much for your authenticity. There is something extremely powerful yet very simple that you can do.
All you have to do is to tell your face what you’re feeling and want your audience to feel too and then feel it. Just by holding an emotional word in your head with consciousness and clarity your entire body will know what to do to help you and your audience feel what you are thinking. If you are feeling nervous don’t tell your face that tell it you are excited.
It’s the way we are programmed subconsciously. Whatever you want to feel and express then all you have to do is to tell your face.
4) Touch everything
Nothing exudes more confidence than ownership. Whether you are speaking at a conference or in a meeting room, if you don’t own the space your audience will. Even though none of it may be yours you get to own all of it simply by touching it.
If you’re using PowerPoint and want to highlight something on the screen reach up and touch it, don’t just point to it. If there’s a flip chart in the room move it to a place that works best for you and your audience.
In fact don’t just move it, stroke it and show them it’s yours. Whatever else is in the room make sure you let them know it’s yours too.
For many presenters it’s the physical act of just being up on their feet facing an audience that is the most challenging. Following these 4 suggestions despite how crazy they may sound to you will go a long way to helping you present with confidence, impact and authority.
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Image: Courtesy of flickr.com