As humans in an age of digital dominance, fueled by 60 hour work weeks and blind ambition, it is increasingly hard to be present. To stop, notice your surroundings, calm your mind, and just experience the very moment you are living in. The concept is simple but in application is proves close to impossible for most adults drowning in work and family responsibilities.
Now it may seem strange to speak about presence on a public speaking blog, but its this very concept, this elusive thing we should all be striving for, that elevates our talks, speeches, and presentations so that they are memorable and influential, not just for the audience but for ourselves as speakers as well.
How many times have you found yourself in front of an audience, no matter the size, finish communicating your material and realize you completely blacked out during it and have no recollection on how it went? Have you ever given a talk and had no sense of what your body was doing, or even remember your body existing, because you were so in your heard?
Both of these phenomena are intrinsically linked to our ability to stay present in the moment as we are speaking in front of others. When we are present, we are more aware of not only our surroundings but of ourselves and our bodies. We throw out thoughts and worries that don't apply to our current moment. We take stock in both our mental and physical realities. This does not mean we won't be nervous or a whole host of other emotions when speaking in front of others. But to be aware of what we are saying when we are saying it and how those words are impacting our audience is a key factor in engaging and affecting your audience.
Understanding the concept is all fine and good, but it can be hard to put it into practice.
If you need help getting started, feel free to use the exercise below:
You can easily practice being present while speaking without having to give a presentation in front of a group of people. Have a conversation with a friend or loved one. While you are speaking to them, challenge yourself to thoughtfully chose your words, even if that means talking slower. When you deliver these words, look them in the eye (or at least look at their face). When it is their time to talk, don't look at your phone or computer, focus on what they are saying and REALLY listen. Chances are you will find you have developed a deeper connection with that person and that you can remember more details from the conversation that you usually would. You were able to make a connection with your audience by bringing presence to the forefront.
If you feel you have a good sense of what presence is and feels like in the body, you can do the following things to help refocus yourself in any given moment
- Take slow, deep breaths, elongating your inhales and exhales as long as possible
- Take a moment and internally repeat the mantra "I am focused. I am grounded. I am present in this moment." as many times as need to push out thoughts that are not serving you.
Being present is not an act, its a way of living. It is something humans have been working towards for thousands of years. It is a constant process, a give and take, a journey. This is not something you can master in a night. Yet, just being aware of the need to be present and doing your best to find those moments of being in the here and now will leave you with a sense of calm and clarity. Adopting a practice of presence will enrich all areas of your life, including your public speaking. By getting rid of the worries and concerns of the fight you had last week with your spouse or what you are going to feed the family tonight, you will find freedom in your voice.