Joe, a young man, working in IT for many years, was promoted to a manager's position. He suddenly found himself in charge of conducting staff trainings. He enlisted the help of the company I co-founded, Authentic Voice. My business partner, Michele Marshall, and I met with him. He explained that public speaking was not his strong suit. Joe knew the information he needed to teach backward and forward, but presenting it to a group made him feel anxious. He was concerned that he wouldn't be able to project his voice and keep everyone's attention.
Michele and I encounter this dilemma regularly. Standing in front of a room with all eyes on you is not at all comfortable. We feel judged, and we worry that our presentation will fall flat. We want to appear confident, knowledgeable, and engaging. We can be well prepared and yet feel the panic rise when we have to deliver our speech. Michele and I customize our training to fit our clients' needs, but there is one technique we teach that helps everyone. We show them how to get out of their heads.
Everyone lives inside their minds. We can create whole worlds where we are the star, and we can also generate a devastating apocalypse. We tend to forget how much power we have over our thoughts until we bring the body in for help. When we sit, stand, and walk with high self-esteem, our minds will believe it, too. Michele and I show our clients how their attitude quickly changes when we shift how they hold themselves. Lifting your head and smiling signals positive body language to your audience, but it also gives you a sense of well-being. It's hard to feel insecure when your shoulders are back, and your posture is commanding.
Michele and I asked Joe to try the following ideas every day for a week. Start creating a strong presence when you get out of bed. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Stretch your arms up and over your head. Take a deep breath and hold it for a count of four. Exhale through your mouth for a count of four and put music on that makes you happy. Walk to your car or train with purpose. When you're paying attention to how your body feels, you're staying in the moment. Being present helps with any undue worry or nervous tension. Everyone you meet will recognize your positive energy, and it's infectious.
Michele and I met with Joe at the end of the week. We wanted to know if he tried our suggestions. Joe said he did all of them and was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. He was skeptical but was amazed that taking a few minutes in the morning to breathe and stretch made a big difference. Paying attention and moving with purpose did lower his anxiety. He was also aware that more people were taking the time to say hello to him. He said most of the time he felt invisible. Joe admitted that he still felt very nervous about the upcoming software training.
I asked Joe to stand up with me. I said I want you to relax your whole body and bounce. He was smiling as I demonstrated what I wanted him to do. When he started bouncing, he began laughing. I then told him to stop and introduce himself. Joe did his introduction without any nervousness. His voice was steady and authoritative. Michele and I were impressed, but Joe was incredulous. He said, "I can't believe it. What did you do?" We simply said, "We got you out of your head and in the moment. Being silly is better than being nervous, and it's more fun." Moving forward, it was only a matter of time and practice that helped Joe conduct his lectures with confidence.
We can wallow in negativity and self-doubt, but it uses up a lot of energy. We can flip the switch. Do yourself a favor and take time throughout the day to breathe deeply. Get up and go for a walk to stretch your legs and arms. Pay attention to your body. When you need to boost your mood, sit up straight and smile. When you're home, take a few minutes to dance, move, and bounce. You'll feel better by being in the moment and enjoying a better mind-set. Be silly. It's fun.