Public Speaking: What is Mindful Presenting?

Mindfulness diagram

It’s Friday morning and it’s been a very long week, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel. That light is the simple but joyous thought that in a few hours you’ll be driving home away from the noise, the pressure, the stress and the sameness.

Moments into a very lucid image of enjoying a well-deserved glass of wine or simply flopping exhausted onto your sofa you are interrupted by another all too familiar noise; your bosses voice. She graciously acknowledges how busy you are, together with her appreciation of how short notice it is and how the last thing she wants to do is to interfere with your hard earned weekend. The humility stops right there with a request for you to make an important presentation to the management team on her behalf on Monday morning because ‘something’s come up’.

Before that moment you lived in the belief that mindfulness was something reserved for the lucky few who had the time to sit quietly on their own meditating. Now you realise that you can be far more mindful than you ever gave yourself the credit for, although it’s a painful awareness. In that moment and for the rest of the day you become aware of what you are thinking and what you are feeling.

Thoughts

  • How on earth am I going to be ready for this in time?

 

  • Why me anyway?

 

  • Doesn’t she know how busy I am?

 

  • I’m an awful presenter

 

  • I don’t have time and there is no way I can pull this off

 

  • This is going to be a disaster

 

  • It’s the management team for goodness sake

 

  • What if they don’t like what I have to say or how I say it?

 

  • What if I forget what to say?

 

  • What if they ask me a question I don’t know the answer to?

 

  • What if they all know more than me?

 

Feelings

  • I’m angry that my boss doesn’t recognise how busy I am.

 

  • I’m worried because I just don’t have time for this

 

  • I’m fed up because it’s just ruined my weekend

 

  • I’m scared because I don’t like presenting anyway

 

  • I’m nervous because I’m not even a good presenter

 

  • I’m anxious because I just know it’s going to go horribly wrong.

 

  • I feel so sick…

 

Is that mindfulness?

It is if you define it as, ‘the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something’. If you are consciously aware of many of those thoughts and feelings then many would of course argue that you are of course being mindful.

On the other hand if you subscribe to the more popular school of thought that mindfulness means, ‘Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally’, it’s probably the non-judgmental part that lets you down.

I’m a huge champion of the latter definition but I’m also grounded in realism. That means that I aspire to ‘paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally’ but I recognise the gargantuan human challenge to do so. For me, mindfulness represents the inherent human challenge and value of non-judgmental presence but its baseline is simple consciousness and awareness.

Simple in intellectual terms but not necessarily so easy in practice.

There is a wealth of research that tells us what most of us already know intuitively which is that we each have a vast number of thoughts, many of which are very similar to each other and a great number of which are negative.

That’s why I believe that just the very act of becoming more aware of our thoughts and feelings in any given moment can pay enormous dividends. The alternative is of course living a life on what I call ‘auto-pilot’ where we essentially end up coasting through life.

It seems to me that mindfulness is the key to a taking ourselves off of ‘auto-pilot’ and living a life which offers more value and meaning. When it comes to presenting our ideas to others I’m sure you would agree that the one thing our audience want from us more than anything else is value and meaning. They want the facts, data, knowledge, information and insights but they want it wrapped up in a way that has personal relevance and purpose to them. A way that will make a tangible difference to their personal or professional lives that offers value and meaning.

Everything else is just noise and as we live in a world of ‘noise’, most of it is filtered out as we look for the ‘gold’. In the context of high impact presenting and public speaking the ‘gold’ represents the intensive filtration of the ‘noise’ to find the one thing that our audience is looking for that will help them in some way.

Mindful presenting is that filter – It’s the cleansing of the noise.

  • The noise in our minds

 

  • The noise our audience hears, sees and feels

 

The noise in our minds

It’s not new; it’s a very familiar voice:

 

–           I’m an awful presenter

 

–           This is going to be a disaster

 

–           What if they don’t like what I have to say or how I say it?

 

–           What if I forget what to say?

 

–           What if they ask me a question I don’t know the answer to?

 

–           What if they all know more than me?

 

The noise our audience hears, sees and feels

If we listen to, entertain and accept the noise that we hear then here is the noise our audience experiences:

  • What on earth has this got to do with me?

 

  • Why do they keep saying the same thing over and over again?

 

  • Is this about them or me?

 

  • So what, why should I care?

 

  • Couldn’t they have just sent me this in an email?

 

  • Am I even in the right room?

 

  • I really don’t have time for this.

 

Mindful presenting is the solution

It’s about having the consciousness to answer all of these questions with absolute clarity before you sit down to craft your presentation.

It’s about acknowledging and accepting that if you don’t have that clarity and purpose then as far as your audience is concerned it’s just more noise.

It’s about realising that in the absence of clear and powerful answers to the questions you don’t really have a presentation to make. 

It’s about knowing that your presentation is nothing to do with you and everything to do with your audience. What do you want them to think, do and feel?

It’s about taking the time out to slow down, calm down and think about who your audience really are and how you can help them.

It’s about recognising that your audience don’t want to see and hear a slick, well-polished and rehearsed speaker. They want to hear someone speak who is knowledgeable enough to help them but really cares about their personal needs.

It’s about delivering your message with absolute clarity in a way that is compelling, meaningful and valuable.

It’s about connecting with your audience emotionally as well as intellectually.

Is mindfulness easy?

My belief is that it isn’t and that it’s our ultimate personal challenge. After all, the past is gone and the future hasn’t yet arrived so what else is there?

There is the opportunity to be conscious, to be aware, to be wide awake and present in every moment. In terms of how achievable it is, it’s something that most of us are oblivious too because we are simply so busy being busy. That said; it is very achievable.

When it comes to presenting if we want to be heard, understood, remembered and have our ideas acted upon we really have no other choice.

Mindful presenting is the future of high impact presenting.

Connecting is everything!

If this article has inspired you to learn a little more about how effective your presentation skills are you may want to take a look at our presentation training and presentation coaching pages to see how we may be able to help you. You will also find a great deal of really helpful ‘free’ information in our Learning Centre.

Image: Courtesy of flickr.com

 

 

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