Blog post by Michael Miller, Operations Director at Edison Red…
Feeling anxious about that upcoming presentation? Mindfulness techniques can help reduce the stress of public speaking and make your presentations more engaging. Here’s how to become a more mindful presenter…
If you’ve been asked to give a presentation but – like many of us – you’re not a 100% confident public speaker, you might find yourself caught up worrying about what might go wrong in the future, or else focusing on something that went wrong in the past.
These negative thought patterns can trigger the bodily symptoms of anxiety – sweaty hands, increased heartbeat, faster breathing – all of which only serve to compound your anxiety and could end up driving your emotions and behaviour. When it comes to the presentation, if you find yourself focusing on your own insecurities, you will also find yourself disassociating from your audience - who may in turn stop paying attention to the message you are there to deliver.
So, how do you get out of your head and concentrate on the task at hand? Mindfulness is an increasingly popular tool in the workplace which can both help you feel calmer when speaking and make your presentations more engaging…
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a stress-relieving technique that involves purposefully focusing on the present moment, by paying attention to your current thoughts and feelings, and your current situation and surroundings.
As we become more aware of the stream of thoughts and feelings that we experience now, we start to notice patterns and we can learn to recognise when our thoughts are taking over – and then realise that these thoughts don’t have to control us.
In terms of presenting, mindfulness is all about learning to speak with a total awareness of the audience and task at hand. Here are 5 tips to help you become a more mindful public speaker…
Establish a clear objective
What is the intention of your presentation? Your objective should completely inform the content and structure of the presentation. Having a clear goal in mind will also help you keep your focus on the day.
Engage with your audience
What do the audience need to know to understand and accept your intention? How can you deliver your message in a more engaging way? Look for ways to convey your message in a way that is interesting and meaningful to your specific audience.
Be in the room
Focus on what’s going on around you rather than obsessing over how nervous you may be. Noticing – without judging – will pull you into the now. Making eye contact and small-talk with your audience will help focus you in the moment and appear more confident.
Reframe your thoughts
Your colleague yawns in the middle of your presentation. Negative thoughts rear their ugly head: I must be boring, I’m doing a terrible job, I’m never going to get that promotion… Lost in your own spiralling worries you start to stutter over your words and forget your train of thought. Mindfulness is not about making these thoughts go away; rather, it’s about recognising the negative self-talk for what it is – anxiety – and choosing to let it go so you can instead centre yourself in the present moment.
Being present takes practice. Anyone who has meditated will tell you how difficult it is to still the mind. Start small; pick a time each day to turn off auto-pilot. Observe the sensations created by the world around you. Focus on your breath. When your attention wanders return your focus to your breath. Pick another time on another day, and try again. And so on.
The next time you make a presentation, take a few moments beforehand to focus yourself on the present. When you get up on stage really look and connect with your audience and be fully aware of your environment. For a final masterclass watch this short clip of the Dalai Lama talking about the various ways we can view the present. He’s certainly focusing on his audience.