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If you have ten minutes before you are facilitating a meeting or delivering a presentation, reminding yourself of who you want to be as a facilitator is a great way of preparing to present. These ten minutes are not the time to re-train yourself or fix big challenges in your public speaking style. Nor are they the time to totally re-work how or what you are going to present. But the time leading up to a meeting is a good time to center yourself and offer a few mindful reminders to your conscious brain about what you are trying to accomplish. In fact, I would argue that preparing to present can be as important as the presentation itself.
Here are five ways you can mindfully prepare to present. Use them before facilitating a meeting, giving a speech, or delivering a workshop. They can have significant impacts on how you come across to your audience, and make you feel more focused and ready for your role.
Preparing to Present Checklist:
- Breathe. Before you present, take a moment to take 5 deep, counted breaths – count to four on the way in, and six on the way out. And then remind yourself that breathing is just as important while you are presenting. Stopping to take a breath between ideas has multiple benefits; it gives your participants time to absorb what you are sharing, and it gives you time to re-group before moving on. Taking a breath also helps if you are nervous or concerned about time. Ironically, if you have limited time to present, rushing is actually the worst thing you can do. Instead, slow down, take a breath, and focus on the most important things to cover during this limited time.
- Tell yourself “I know what I am doing” or “I know what I am talking about.” There is a reason that you are on deck to facilitate this meeting or deliver this information. It is because you have something to share that can benefit others, or you are in a position to help a group make progress. By consciously telling yourself that you are capable, you can calm your nerves and actually change the way in which you’ll deliver your content. Confident presenters don’t need to read slides word-for-word. Confident presenters can speak naturally, not formally, so that participants feel like they can relate to the speaker. Confident facilitators can adjust on the fly, trusting their intuition. These skills will come more naturally when you remind yourself that you are in this role for a reason.
- Picture an accordion. Imagine the way that the folds of the accordion expand and contract to make music. The accordion can produce great results either way, and so can you. You can adapt your meeting agenda to make more space when you realize it is needed, and you can squeeze some things into less space without hurting them. Facilitation is an art, just like music. Knowing when to expand and when to compress can help meetings flow much more smoothly and efficiently (Credit for this tip goes to Emily Boedecker of Momentum Communications who is an excellent example when it comes to clear, effective communication style).
- Make yourself Comfortable. Good presenters do not have to be rigid, formal, or uncomfortable. In fact, some of the best presentations I have seen have been from folks who set down the microphone, step out from behind the podium, or deliver their online workshop from the comfort of their living room. While some level of formality may be expected in your setting, take a moment to ask – “what can I do to feel more natural during this presentation?” If you still need to be at a podium, get yourself a glass of water or move the podium to a spot where you can stand in a more natural position that feels less rigid to you. Make sure that you can see your audience well, and that you can see your reference materials (slides, notes, etc.) without awkwardly turning. If you are presenting online, get yourself a warm glass of tea or coffee and make sure that your chair is comfortable. Put simply, uncomfortable presenters give uncomfortable presentations.
- Review your top 3 Takeaways. Ask yourself, “When my meeting or presentation is over, what are the top three takeaways I want to produce?” (or just one if it is big enough!). These might be the top three learning points you want your students to take home or the top three outcomes for the meeting you are running. Less is more here. Focusing on ONLY 3 takeaways – or LESS – helps you hone in on what is important and remember to emphasize those things above other things that are not as crucial. These takeaways will be your anchors. As you present, you’ll remember to emphasize these take-aways and re-state them as needed. This will give your presentation or meeting a clear focus, which helps participants follow along and contribute more effectively.
What about the “Power Pose?”
Some attention has been paid over the last few years to the idea of of doing the superman pose or “power pose” before presenting in order to boost your confidence and help you feel more powerful before entering a meeting, presentation, or interview. Standing with legs open, hands on hips, and chest high may help you to feel more confident and powerful. Research is still exploring these claims, but if it works for you as part of preparing to present, then by all means add it to your pre-meeting routine.
That said, another way to think about physical presence is to focus on movement that emphasizes creating and embracing the space around us. In yoga, poses like the star pose focus on not just “taking up space” but acknolwedging the space around us and opening ourselves up to it. In this sense, while doing a pose like this you could think not only about your own confidence, but about opening up room for creativity, letting widsom in from others, and creating a sense of expansiveness.
If you have a half hour the day you are presenting, you could try this practice from Yoga with Adriene. Or, you could simply add a star pose to your 10 minute prep, maybe even while doing your breathing. Stand up and open your arms and legs up wide while gently turning your gaze upward. Focus on feeling the expansiveness around you and the possibility it brings. You could even try adding a smile to your face while you do it to focus on the positive aspects of holding space with others, which you are about to do as a facilitator or presenter.
Effective facilitation is an art. It requires paying mindful attention to your own style, skills, and strategies. There are a lot of ways to work on your skills as a presenter – from professional public speaking coaching to facilitation training, books, and workshop on the topic. But practice, and especially practice that is informed by consciously thinking about who you want to be as a presenter, is one of the most important parts of the journey.
Try one – or all five – of these preparation activities before your next meeting or facilitation role and let me know if they help!