If you have read the first part of this two-part series you will be ready now to put it all together to prepare for a presentation to be at your best and to start enjoying speaking in public – and, to borrow a phrase, Yes, you can!
There is one thing in life that there is no vaccine against, no pills, medicine nor patches – that is enthusiasm!
If you are enthusiastic about your subject, you demonstrate enthusiasm through your body language, your gestures and your voice – well, the audience really has no alternative than to catch at least a part of your enthusiasm – it is irresistible.
We are going to look at ways to de-stress – that is to get rid of excessive stress linked to public speaking, whilst maintaining that little buzz, that keeps the butterflies flying in the stomach – the energy that drives a great presentation.
Just a couple of things to ponder, before we start:
1. There is no true communication – just perception, we are responsible for the way our communication is perceived interpreted by our listeners and
2. A presentation is all about managing energy levels.
In the first statement, what I mean is, we set out to send a message, which we consider to be authentic, logical and clear – but, the message is received wrongly or not in the way that we intended.
When we are communicating to a group, it is our responsibility to ensure that we have an element of empathy in as much as we attempt to see things more from the listener’s point of view than our own – this involves aspects of Verbal, Non-verbal and Paralinguistic variables.
Seeing the world through our own eyes does not make for truths and constants – we should try to see things as our listeners see things in order to be effective communicators.
What does this mean in terms of a presentation, you may ask?
If we are trying to convince an audience / federate people around a project or implement change, with a voice that is barely audible, dancing on the spot, avoiding eye contact, shaking or talking with a low, monotonous voice … well, you get the picture.
Very often, if not always, it isn’t what we say, but the way we say it that leads to the strongest messages being communicated – as a presenter, we need to not only be aware of this, but also to ensure that we communicate what we want and how we want it to be received.
A presenter also needs to be able to manage energy levels, by varying tone, pitch and volume of the voice, varying the way that information is presented and audience interaction – if you are not doing this effectively you are not only missing the point, but you are also missing a huge opportunity.
If your energy levels are low, due to your body language and the paralinguistic quality of your voice – what do you think the effect will be on the audience?
Yes, I mean those people who are gently nodding-off to sleep in front of you – who give a resounding round of applause when you finish your presentation in relief that you are finished and their lives, briefly interrupted, can now carry on their natural courses.
So let’s get down to business, you have got your information together, you have your speech worked out – now let’s prepare with some exercises to ensure that you are going to perform.
For some of these exercises, you will need to do them in private, away from the audience, others you can do when in the presentation room – just remember that you are going to work on yourself and there is no magic wand, you will have to practice regularly to be able to be ready for the day – let’s start by releasing some of the tension in the body :
1. Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart, bend over, whilst keeping your knees locked and touch your toes – stretch out your finger and touch the floor three or four times, then gradually stand upright again – do this 4 or 5 times to start relaxing the torso. Do the same again, with your fingers dragging on the floor, sway from side-to-side a few times before gradually reaching an upright position.
2. Put your hands by your side – make a fist and alternatively stretch out each arm in front of you, push your fist forward without turning your shoulders then let your arm drop heavily back to your thighs – do this a few times to start to reduce the tension in the shoulders.
3. Shrug your shoulders upwards and then drop them heavily – this is the shoulder bounce, which help release tension in the shoulders and torso.
4. Stand on tiptoes – hold and relax, returning to the soles of your feet – this helps release the tension in the calf muscles. Stand with your feet flat on the ground clench and unclench your toes.
5. This can be done sitting or standing – Close your eyes and visualise your ankles – imagine a spot of gentle warmth in the ankles – then imagine it travelling up your legs and spine, slowly to the base of the neck – when it arrives at the top of the spine, tilt your head forwards (not down) this has the effect of releasing the airway. Now start a deep yawn, but do not finish it, close the mouth before the end of the yawn – this helps release the tension in the jaw and mouth.
6. Put your hands at your sides – imagine that you have a piece of scotch tape stuck to your fingers – start trying to shake it of, then pull you forearms up until they are horizontally in front of you – start flapping your wings like a bird, bring them up to shoulder level, then let them drop heavily to your side.
7. Let your head drop gently so that your chin is resting on your chest, swing it right and left then let it flop gently backwards so you are looking at the ceiling, move it gently to the right and left again in circular motions.
8. Close your eyes tightly then open them as wide as possible – relax the do this again several times. Furrow the brow in a frown then relax, close the lips and smile as wide as possible, relax and repeat a few times.
9. Open your mouth as wide as you can, breathe in gently, but deeply – slowly let the air out with a soft sigh.
10. Breathe in deeply – concentrate on deep breathing and moving your belt area and not shallow breaths, breathe out slowly several times with a silent whistle.
11. Pant rapidly like a dog, taking short breaths (ensure that nobody is around) then expel the air rapidly to empty the lungs with a ‘hip’ sound as the air is expelled.
12. Inhale deeply from the diaphragm – hold the breath for two seconds then let it out slowly with as loud a hum you can do (given the place where you are).
13. Start the sound mee with a rising volume – ending by throwing your voice with as loud an ‘Ow’ as possible – if your throat tickles – you are sending the sound too high in the throat – concentrate on projecting your voice and not on shouting.
14. Say some tongue twisters, such as, ‘red Lorry, Yellow Lorry’ a few times, concentrating on moving the mouth to clearly say the words rapidly, but clearly. Now place the tongue firmly behind the bottom teeth and do the same again – this will accentuate the formation of the words and exercise the mouth muscles.
Right, now you should start feeling a little better – just go and do it!
Remember to concentrate on presentation successes – have in mind the feeling that you had when you did a good presentation – things go wrong, just manage that – you will succeed!
Just allow your self to do so.