Has your training prepared you for this rapidly growing aspect of business and teaching? Does your preparation include you?
Everyone is doing it! Businesses, teachers of all kinds, doctors, those in the arts, sciences, business and medicine are communicating more and more via some kind of Internet or video conferencing. If you are one of these people, how much time do you devote to personal preparation not including the notes and slides? Preparing your written materials is only the beginning. If you are good at presentation, you will need to be even better in the video situation. If you presentation is wordy, highly technical, mediocre or dull, you run the risk of being exceptionally boring in this situation. What can you do to improve?
Your energy is what leads and holds the group’s attention. Therefore your preparation and how you conduct yourself is vitally important—and often neglected by devoting excess attention to the text and slides.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you want to be perceived as a leader?
- Do you command authority?
- Do you want effective group participation?
Preparation is everything. So say all the experts. How do you prepare? Almost everyone spends a huge percentage of their preparation time on ideas, text, deliverables, and visual materials. However, even the best ideas can fall flat when the presenter has not prepared himself. No sports person walks out for a match without out a complete set of skills that include physical and mental techniques. Too many presenters are satisfied with only working with the intellectual aspects of the material and forget that they themselves are the critical catalyst for conveying the message. Here are five easy steps to include in your preparation that take you less than 30 seconds to achieve.
One: Ground yourself
The simple act of grounding yourself can change your voice, your feeling of confidence and the perception others have of you. It is easy to do.
1. Make sure your feet are solidly on the floor with the toes pointed straight ahead. Martial artists have long known that your energy is strong with toes pointing forward and weak with toes turned out. Don’t begin a meeting with weak energy.
2. As you are likely to be sitting, make sure your tailbone is pointing straight down to the floor and that an imaginary line from the middle of the upper back is pointing straight up to the ceiling. There is nothing rigid about this; it is a matter of balance and alignment. It is very important as to how you are perceived and how centered you feel within yourself. When there is fear or anxiety, the first thing that happens is we lose grounding and it is perceptible. You want to look and sound dynamic and responsive.
Two: Center yourself with breath
It is surprising how many people actually hold their breath when thinking, or when giving a presentation. While you are grounding, include this breathing exercise as part of your preparation. It is not necessary to take a big or audible breath. This can be your secret.
1. Think of a loop of breath that goes around the back and front of your spinal cord
2. Imagine you are breathing in from the bottom of the back of your spine to the top of your head
3. Imagine you are breathing out from the top of your head down the front of your spine to the tailbone
4. Do this three times or any time you feel the need to center.
Three: Pull yourself together and be present
It is all too easy to think that because you are not giving a formal presentation that you can be a bit lax and come across as too casual. Make sure you are alert, aware, and energetic.
The feeling of being “together” is more energising than constantly reminding yourself to relax. The common perceptions of relaxing tend to be more akin to collapsing. The first two exercises will help you feel together and cantered. However, sometimes we are thinking of many things at once before a meeting and it scatters our focus. Consciously see yourself as together and ready for the meeting. Do this before you log on or before participants arrive. When you are in a state of readiness, the participants will sense this and will begin to do the same. Most importantly, you have to want to be there; your group/audience knows when your mind is not there.
Four: Focus on the outcome(s) you and your group want
1. What is the one thing you want to achieve?
2. Ask the same of each member in attendance. In the case of a large group, you can solicit this answer by email before the session.
Focusing, visualising, and imagining yourself in the situation with positive outcomes are vital to any public appearance. Good performers, from athletes to actors know the importance of this. Interestingly, your brain does not know the difference between your imagination and reality. Knowing that body and mind respond to thoughts and visualisations makes it vital that you choose appropriate, positive visualisation and thoughts. Avoid contaminating your meeting with negative energy.
Five: Warmly greet each person who attends as if they were entering your home
A friendly acknowledgement of each person will make him or her feel welcome and ready to participate. No matter what the purpose of conference, a meeting that begins with a positive energy will accomplish more and create eager participants.
Summary: Enjoy the process (If you don’t, neither will anyone else)
When you are aware, grounded, centered and focused, the quality and authority of your voice and presence will become part of a coherent image of a leader. The result will be a meeting that has the necessary positive energy to achieve your goals. All parts of a presentation are important, the ideas, materials and especially you. It is delivered through you and you owe it to yourself and the participants to be the best you can be in front of your audience. Never allow the conference/meeting/workshop to become a chore!
While this article has been directed toward video presentations, it is equally important to include the five steps anytime you are in front of an audience.
Meribeth Dayme, PhD is a pioneer in the field of voice and communication. Her books: The Performer’s Voice and Presence, Confidence and Personal Power are valued by performers and presenters across the globe. More information can be found here: www.alchemyprogrammes.com