M — Mindfulness: high impact presentation skills
Mindfulness isn’t about sitting in the lotus position struggling to notice your breath as it’s stifled by burning incense. It isn’t about stopping thought, transcending or escaping. It’s about connecting; connecting with yourself first and then everyone and everything around you.
This article isn’t about mindfulness purely in the context of being a far more effective presenter and public speaker; it’s about connecting with yourself which is the starting point for connecting with your audience.
When it comes to presenting the best place to start connecting is not only long before you open your laptop. It’s through turning the things we do every day into mindful moments.
I chose the name of our business Mindful Presenter very consciously, not because it had anything to do with meditating or the current notion of mindfulness. The name was born through a personal belief from many years of working in the corporate world that far too many business presentations were mindless.
I was deeply frustrated and intrigued by the way so many highly intelligent, talented and creative professionals were presenting their ideas in the workplace. Reading slides fraught with bullet points and text, dumping data and inflicting ‘death by PowerPoint’ seemed to be the norm.
It felt so mindless.
Mindless in the context that everyone seemed to be presenting the same way. For decades business presenting has revolved around presenters showing their audience just how much they know, how clever they are and how hard they work. Presenters taking at least twice as long as necessary to share information that isn’t completely relevant which is forgotten by most of the audience by the time they return to their desk. Boring templates, corporate logos on every slide which are crammed with data delivered in a monotone voice; that was my experience.
I recognise that my sweeping generalisation won’t necessarily apply to you or your organisation but I’m willing to bet that you have been a victim of mindless presenting at some point.
Why do we do it?
Perhaps it’s because we are creatures of habit and have always seen it done that way so don’t know any better. Maybe its simply that we are far too busy to explore another way. It could be that no one has ever challenged and inspired us to think and present differently. Whatever the reason, it is clear to me that public speaking isn’t a skill that most of us are taught at school, college, university or even in the workplace. Strangely, the idea of mindfulness isn’t something most of us are taught either.
Mindfulness is not only the key to high impact public speaking and presenting. I believe it’s the future of communication. I have embarked on a personal and professional mission to radically change the way we speak to each other in business.
That mission is being fuelled by promoting a high level of awareness aligned to a powerful intention to connect with each other each time we speak. The last thing a mindful presenter will do is open up their laptop and begin in haste populating PowerPoint.
In a previous article I wrote called, ‘The future of presenting and public speaking: mindfulness’ I stated:
‘A great speaker is someone who:
– Knows their subject inside out
– Researches and understands their audience
– Cares deeply about their audience and understands the full impact and consequence of their words
– Uses the full range of their voice, pitch, tone, tempo, rhythm, intonation and volume
– Crafts colourful and creative slides
– Uses eye contact brilliantly
– Makes powerful gestures
– Tells stories
– Speaks with passion
– Owns the stage, yet leaves their ego at the front door’
None of that is easy of course, it takes a great deal of thought, focus, preparation and practice; in other words, mindfulness.
The best place to start connecting is not only long before you open your laptop. It’s through turning the things we do every day into mindful moments.
If you are drinking a cup of tea don’t just drink it; experience and enjoy it. Notice the smell, the taste of each mouthful, the temperature of the water. When you shower don’t just shower yourself, notice the smell and texture of the shower gel, the feeling of the water on your skin, the steam on the shower door.
Everything we do offers us an opportunity to be more mindful. Rather than simply doing what you are doing become aware of it. Pay attention to how you feel, what you hear, what you see; listen and look closely.
Accept the fact that your mind will wander because that’s what it’s conditioned to do but when it does just bring you awareness and full attention back to what you are doing.
If your attention is divided and given to more than one thing at a time you are doing yourself a disservice; multi- tasking is a misnomer.
The true result of your divided focus is that it will take longer to get things done, you are more likely to make mistakes and radically reduce your level of awareness. Focus on one thing at a time.
Leave it alone
We live in a world where many of us have an unhealthy relationship with our mobile phones. For some people the very first thing they do each morning is reach over to the bedside cabinet to check their phone. It’s often the last thing they do before falling asleep at night too. It’s hard to appreciate life fully if we are constantly checking our phones. Sometimes we need to look up form our screens and make eye contact, pay attention to real life and consciously choose to be more aware of the world around us.
Take a moment
Many of us are so busy being busy we very rarely take a moment to pause, breathe and notice how we are feeling. Don’t just take a moment, take several of them throughout each day. Switch off your autopilot and just tune into how you are feeling. This isn’t an exercise about chasing happiness because we can’t be happy all of the time. It’s also not about judging and condemning ourselves if we aren’t feeling great; it’s just about taking the time to notice.
Stop being so serious
Remembering and choosing to laugh and smile at ourselves and the smallest things around us is a powerful tool. We spend so much of our lives, worrying, ruminating and trying to solve problems that its quite exhausting. In the process of doing so we often miss a great part of our lives by getting wrapped up in so many things that distract us from enjoying life. Stop taking yourself so seriously and remember to smile.
Taking the time and making the conscious effort to live more mindfully across all areas of our lives is the surest way to becoming a mindful presenter. After all, what would be the point of being a mindful presenter for an activity which involves just a fraction of our lives whilst we miss the rest of it.
Mindfulness is the key to connecting with ourselves and our audience whilst presenting but it’s benefits extend to every single area of our lives. If we can find the courage to practice being more mindful across all areas of our lives we will reap the rewards each time we stand to speak.
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.
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