Topic of the Month:
Building Your Personal Speaking Foundation
“Eighty percent of success is showing up,” says Woody Allen. And, if that is true, how you show up becomes hugely important.
The Disaster Scenario:
Imagine you are making a presentation. You know the content and you have practiced it. You feel secure in your knowledge. Content is not a problem. You walk into the room, and everyone is looking at you. They have expectations. You can’t let them down. You also have expectations, and you can’t let yourself down.
There is a pressure building inside of you. You look around and then, all of a sudden, your energy level starts to fluctuate. Your nervous system is sending you messages and discomfort sets in. Your head begins to vibrate with thoughts like: “You aren’t ready!” “You can’t do this!” “You are not good at this!”
Many presenters start thinking about other things when they have to present: “What will the audience think of me?” “Will I make a fool out of myself?” “Can I remember everything I need to tell them?” “Do I look good?” “Am I going to fail?” Their bodies are there, but their minds are
When your critical inner voice takes over, it starts to bombard you with nonstop, negative ideas about you, the topic, or your previous disasters. Sound familiar? This disaster scenario happens all of the time. The fantastic thing is, we can stop it.
The Success Scenario:
One of the most powerful things a presenter can do to be successful, is exactly what Woody Allen says: Show up and be present. Presence means that you have a sense of being fully where you are – mentally, physically and emotionally.
When you are present, all aspects of you are focused on what is happening now. As you focus, you exude a strong presence that others feel. Showing up in the here and now makes it easier to engage and connect with others. They will feel comfortable and want to engage and connect
While the disaster scenario has your mind going everywhere except where it needs to be to make a successful presentation, the success scenario focuses on being fully present when speaking. Being present alleviates fear and anxiety and short circuits the awful and
counterproductive critical inner voice.
Presence is the basis of a strong speaking foundation. With this foundation in place, you will be more confident and charismatic while speaking to others. Creating your speaking foundation is the pivotal difference between having success and succumbing to failure.
Here are four ways to build the feeling of presence and develop a strong speaker’s foundation:
Four Ways to Build Your Speaking Foundation
1. Be Aware Of Your Body
Your body is part of who you are. You bring it everywhere you go! It stands out even before you speak. Use your body to establish your presence. Explore the tension of people looking at you with your being the center of attention. Notice any part of your body that is tense and learn some simple relaxation and exercise routines that help let the tension go. Your body will let others know you are open, engaging, honest, and straightforward.
2. Get Out Of Your Head
Stop thinking about yourself or your fear. The more you think about fear and anxiety, the more your brain will begin to manufacture more and more reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t do whatever you are doing.
Your critical voice is only fear and anxiety multiplied by an overactive brain, and what it tells you isn’t the truth. To get out of your head and engage and connect, concentrate on the people who will be in your audience. What questions will you ask them? How will you be curious and non-judgmental about them? How can you focus on their needs instead of your own.
3. Ground Yourself
It’s easy to connect with others when you are grounded. Grounded means feeling that you are on a solid foundation, settled, and in control. Being grounded is one way of saying being in the present.
One of the best grounding techniques is to stand erect with your feet about shoulder length apart. Imagine a string at the crown of your head pulling very gently upward while keeping your face looking straight ahead. At the same time, imagine roots are growing from your feet and pulling you downward, gently into the earth.
As you feel the connection to the earth, let the stretch and the feeling run slowly all the way up from your feet to the top of your head. Grounding reduces body tension and gives you a sense of power. The stretch creates a sense of confidence, strength, stability and the awareness of being in the present moment.
Breathing is one of the fundamental ways to stay in the here and now. Notice what happens when you are stressed, afraid or excited. Your breathing becomes shallow and limited to your chest. This normal reaction is part of your “fight or flight” response. With limited air in your chest, it becomes difficult to speak. You are – literally – gasping for air.
As you read this, take four or five deep breaths in this way: (1) Breathe in slowly from your nose and fill up your chest. (2) When you feel your chest full, continue breathing in and fill the area beneath your chest where your rib cage is. (3) When that’s full, breathe into your belly until it extends. (4) Breathe out slowly through your mouth.
Healthy breathing oxygenates your brain and relaxes your body. Use this breathing exercise before giving a presentation. It will keep you in the present, make you feel grounded, and give you wonderful, alive energy.
Having a strong speaking foundation is the first step in creating successful presentations that engage and impact your audiences.
These four strategies are introductory exercises for starting to build your speaker’s foundation. They are part of a much larger network of experiential learning exercises that transform your speaking abilities and change your definition of what it means to give a successful presentation.
To build a strong speaker’s foundation and develop your speaking style, take a look at Ovson’s essential public speaking trainings.