Do you dread giving a speech or presentation? Well read on. I just might have the cure for you. For now, just don’t think about pink elephants. I’ll explain this in a bit.
A leader who avoids public speaking is like a greyhound that doesn’t like to run. It seems like you’re dodging one of your central functions.
To be effective on stage, you need a few key ingredients. First, you need valuable content. After all, that’s the meal that attracts your hungry audience. Next, you need great graphics because visual impact creates lasting impact. If you’re graphically challenged like me, find the best graphic artist you can afford to assist in making your presentation glow. Last, you have to look like a leader when you speak by being Poised and managing your emotions.
Whenever you’re performing in a public speaking role, your emotions matter, because whatever you’re feeling on the inside will likely show through to the outside. If your body language doesn’t match what you’re saying, then trust becomes the victim! It doesn’t matter why your body language isn’t matching your words. The audience doesn’t really know why either. However, the audience just gets a feeling that something isn’t right. Whenever they get that feeling, the audience can’t fully trust you.
A common approach is to just try to control your body language and tell yourself over and over, “Don’t be nervous.” Well that’s just like telling yourself, “I will not think of pink elephants.” When I mentioned pink elephants in the opening paragraph, I’ll bet you instantly saw a mental picture of a pink elephant. It is impossible for the human mind to have “non-thoughts.” We only have thoughts. To not think of pink elephants, you have to first think of one. It’s a self-defeating proposition.
Excessively nervous presenters sometimes try to purposefully control their body language. This can work to a limited degree, but it can also backfire big time, because artificially controlling your body language can make you seem even more mechanical. So what’s the cure?
The best way to automatically produce better body language and control your nerves at the same time is to replace negative emotions with positive emotions. Negative emotions can arise from anxiety, preoccupation, or an even intense dislike for anything connected to the presentation itself.
In my presentation coaching sessions, I teach people how to create new positive mental and emotional associations that override the negative. This is the most effective way I know to reverse negative emotions.
For example, “What do you feel when you’re somewhere that you really enjoy?” This is also known as your “happy place.” We all have one. Whether it’s going fishing, taking in a ballgame, or spending some quiet time in a mountain cabin. We all have a place where we feel content.
Or, “What do you feel when you’ve achieved an important goal?” Just about everyone has accomplished something they’re proud of. Think of how you felt when you met your goal no matter how large or small it was.
Or, “What do you feel when you’re with some one you really care about?” When we’re with people we care about, we are at ease and happy. We smile and act naturally.
The questions above should generate positive emotions. If we think of these things and associate the feelings with presenting, it’s a sure fire way of reversing negative emotions.
I really like this last question, “What do you feel when you’re standing in front of an audience?” I hope your answer wasn’t sheer terror! If so, I’m sure I can help you. Just give me a call to arrange some presentation coaching sessions. I like to ask this question because it helps to quickly identify who has deep seeded fears of public speaking. For me, the answer is “I feel exhilarated.” I love to be in front of an audience speaking. I’m confident that you can learn to enjoy public speaking too. Now back to body language.
Usually if you feel the right emotions, your body language takes care of itself. Guess what? It works both ways. If you alter your body language you can also change what you feel. While giving a presentation, you should be aware of your body language so you can catch and stop body language negatives. Let’s take a look at some negative body language signals.
The first illustration on the left can indicate defensiveness or simply boredom depending on context. However, regardless of its cause, this body position doesn’t help to form a connection with your audience because of its closed nature.
The second illustration, almost certainly shows defensiveness and tension and the third can indicate boredom or even worse – sarcasm. Any variation of the hand or one or more fingers over the mouth when speaking gives the impression that you don’t believe your on words.
This next body posture is commonly called fig leafing. I’ll leave it to you to complete that connection. Just understand that it is a closed and defensive stance that’s sure to communicate some level of nervousness.
Last, hands behind the back. This is a great example where context can make a big difference. In the military, “hands behind the back” is a very common and even expected stance when giving a presentation. This position is synonymous with the parade rest stance. In the military, it’s not likely to be interpreted negatively. Outside of military settings, one or both hands behind the back can be interpreted as the speaker hiding something.
In summary, emotions and body language go hand-in-hand. Change what you feel and your body language becomes natural and unscripted. If you need to jolt yourself out of a negative emotion, you can also change your body language. You are now armed with the “secret” tips that can make your next presentation a smashing success.
From here on it’s a matter of producing solid content, attention-grabbing graphics, and committed practice. So if you have an important speech or presentation coming up, contact me and I can help you soar like an eagle in all three areas using the 4 Power Leadership Training Method.
As for that solution to your graphics woes? I can help you there too.