by guest blogger Lesley Nevills from Wavelength, a learning company specializing in professional communication skills. Wavelength’s workshops cover topics such as technical writing, scientific presentations, and report writing.
At Wavelength, we’ve been teaching presentation skills for over 50 years and we still find lessons in unexpected places that help our learners improve their presentation skills. If you practice yoga, you probably know that the lessons you learn on the mat can enrich your everyday life. Here is some yoga wisdom to help you still your mind and body so you can present with confidence, ease and intention.
- Don’t create problems
Watch your self-talk. When presenting, how many times do you tell yourself something negative like, “Oh, I messed that up,” or, “I forgot to say that.” Self-talk becomes part of our subconscious and our brains can’t distinguish between what we think and what’s really happening. Next thing you know, you find yourself doing exactly what you were telling yourself not to do. “I better not forget to say this,” and guess what, you forgot to say it. In yoga class, my mantra is no think, no problem. A problem is only a problem if you tell yourself it is. So stop thinking about things as problems.
- Balance effort and ease
Relax, let go and trust yourself. Learning a new skill requires effort, and the newer the skill the more effort it takes—like learning new yoga poses. As your skill grows, the less effort you need to expend. Look for that point when you’ve gained enough competence that you can relax, let go and trust your new ability.
- Stay on your own mat
Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparing yourself to others is detrimental to your confidence. I see participants sabotage their performance all the time in yoga class and when I facilitate presentation skills workshops. The first person to stand up and deliver a practice presentation sets the standard for the rest of the group. If that first presenter does an amazing job, others make comments such as “I don’t want to follow that,” and “Thanks for setting the bar so high!” In yoga class, nothing makes me fall out of a pose faster than noticing how steady someone behind me is.
- Learn to be still
Be still and your audience will pay attention to your message and perceive you as confident and credible. Many yoga instructors say that shavasana, the relaxation period at the end of the class, is the most difficult pose. When I taught yoga, I could see the constant micro-movements, adjustments to get comfortable, scratching, itching and twitching that would go on during these last few minutes of class. By not being still, you distract your body from total relaxation. The same is true for presentations. If I focus on how you windmill your arms or pace like a caged lion, I’m not paying attention to your words and you’re not achieving your objective. Excessive body movement communicates low confidence and distracts your audience. Learn to be still.
- Be one with your intention
Keep your intention front and center when planning and delivering a presentation. In yoga, you must focus solely on the pose you are striving to achieve. When preparing for your presentation, start by identifying your intention or objective and focus on it. Participants often struggle to clarify their objective into a succinct statement. Once they do, they can easily determine what content to include. New presenters think that they need to share everything they know about a topic or subject. In reality, the opposite is true. Give your audience only what they need to know for you to achieve your objective. If you can get your message across with three key points—why add more? Many people try to cover too much and end up having to cut information on the spot.
- Get grounded
Plant your feet, breathe, own the space you take up, and use purposeful movement and gestures that reinforce your message. We spend so much time in life and in presentations in our heads—thinking, processing, judging and planning. By grounding yourself, you can get out of your head and into your body. Try this effective yoga technique to ground yourself before you deliver a presentation: while standing, separate your feet about hip distance apart. On your exhale, visualize your breath going out through your feet down into the floor beneath you and creating roots below you.
What about you? Do you have any lessons from the mat to share?