Speaking in front of others is something many of us have to do at some point, formally or informally, and sometimes it can be difficult. Diane Seymour is a founding member of the TAI Group. She helps clients deliver their full presence and personality for speeches and presentations. We asked her for some advice for those of us who have a hard time getting the guts to speak up.
How can you act more confidently if you’re a nervous speaker?
As you think about delivering your thoughts and perspective to the audience– take a breath. Breathing gives the audience space to better digest the message and helps them feel more confident and relaxed with you as the leader. Also, when you feel physical tension, put your attention on them (the audience). Make your connection to them much, much more important the than the physical nerves you feel. Imagine two balloons – one that inflates and grows (your focus and interest on the audience) and another one that shrinks and diminishes (your nerves). Watch one balloon get larger as the other one disappears.
What are the key elements of commanding greater presence when you walk into a room?
Again, breathe! Imagine you have a string leading from the third button of your shirt (from the center of your sternum) gently pulling you forward as you walk up to take your place. When you arrive in front of the room, start in a “neutral” position — a relaxed stance with your feet balanced and grounded in one spot and your arms free. Starting from neutral allows the audience to focus on you and your message, rather than on any distracting body language. It also allows you to focus on making the connection with individual audience members the most important thing.
How can you create the greatest impact?
In every culture, one of the most important ways human beings influence each other is through story-telling. Stories deliver principles and emotions through metaphor and images that stick in someone’s mind. Metaphors help us see the world in new ways, and can guide us to a deeper understanding of larger organizational initiatives. Stories capture the imagination and help the audience personalize their own experience within the frame of the speaker’s content, which has a huge effect on our ability to process the speaker’s content. Stories and metaphors are ultimately about “journeys” and as an audience we appreciate being led definitively in one direction.
What is the most important principle you can share with someone who is preparing for an important presentation?
Practice makes permanent!