Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know. – Jim Rohn
Reflect on what happens when you are speaking and there is something at stake, whether winning a client, getting a job, making a sale, or simply describing your work. If you’re like many of us, you get nervous and you don’t sound knowledgeable or enthusiastic when just the opposite is true. There’s a good chance your body conveys the message that you aren’t ready to be the center of attention.
Effective communication requires deep connection with your values, body-mind awareness, and preparation. Because the body trumps speech when it comes to first impressions, I’m going to offer tips for presenting that are grounded in the body.
Tools from yoga can help you become a better presenter (or interviewer, salesperson, or business owner), but you don’t have to twist and stretch in the process. You have to plant soft, firm roots, draw energy up and get aligned, be conscious of breathing, and practice, practice, practice!
Your values are your foundation. You know in your bones what is important to you. You know why you do the work you do and what you love about it. You know how it feels when people get it. Notice what happens when you allow yourself to FEEL connected to what matters to you. That place of RESONANCE is the fuel that supports self-promotion.
Every time you present yourself, take time to tap into that place of resonance. It will help bring a smile to your face. It will shift your energy. Just like going to a chiropractor, you are getting aligned and it will show in your stance.
Taking cues from yoga, it’s important to be grounded physically and emotionally. Think of your posture as the headline in your verbal presentation. The best speakers stand or sit upright, leaning slightly forward. Their posture says, “I am solid and sure. I want to connect with you. I am alive.” So, plant your feet solidly on the ground, stand or sit tall, and follow the path of internal alignment with your values to your physical presence.
Conscious breathing makes listening easier on the audience, and it helps keep your nervous system in check. Talk like you want to be understood. Slow down, turn up the volume and articulate your words. The good news is that when we slow down, everyone relaxes. And listens.
I can’t emphasize enough the value of pausing and breathing. Most of us are in such a rush that we need to work at slowing down and relating. When we pause, it’s a cue that we have something important to say. It’s punctuation. You might even notice people stopping to take notes when you’ve stopped and let a point land.
Just for fun, try an experiment with a friend. Talk to that person for two minutes, and take three conscious breaths when you are talking. See what happens in your body when you remember to breathe. Test out how it affects the other person. You may find both of you are actually paying more attention. I’ll bet they won’t notice you paused and sipped in some air!
Pausing and breathing will help you present a relaxed posture. It can be a cue to those who fidget and clasp their hands to relax your arms and drop your shoulders. (It turns out that’s the most relaxed posture for the audience.)
Remember that speaking is about connecting. This sounds obvious. But, how many people prepare for a presentation or an interview without ever practicing out loud?! How often do we write down what we want to say without bringing the words alive with natural inflections? We are speaking to be heard, not read. So, think of speaking as a practice, just as you might think of yoga. Practice presenting out loud, and to others. Let the words become part of your physiology so you know them in your bones, too. Get on the mat, as it were, and tune into your voice.
Throughout my life, I have been successful because of my ability to talk to people. Whether lobbying a Congressman over a piece of legislation, asking a wealthy donor for a contribution, or getting a job interview, communication and confidence have been key. Everyone told me I was successful because of my friendly, genuine demeanor. What that tells me is – I was in a place of resonance and it came through on my face, in my body and in my spirit.
As a coach, my goal is to help you act from a place of resonance with your values. We draw on that foundation to develop action plans and practices that honor and reflect what’s most meaningful to you. The result is the body, voice and spirit are in alignment. And that makes all the difference in your interactions.