What has mindfulness got to do with a blog about becoming a better, more confident presenter, and how can it help us to drop irritating public speaking habits? Keep on reading and you will find out.
On Friday, a comment by my Qi Gong teacher Nilima made me think about what I was learning in class about awareness, and how it was also important in my daily life. And, since much of what I do is related to communicating and speaking, I want to explore how improving our awareness can help us to learn how to be a more proficient public speaker.
In order to improve, we first must notice our habits. Only then can we start to work on eliminating or correcting them. Ignorance may be bliss, but it often stops us from learning and improving. Of course, for many of us becoming mindful of a behaviour that holds us back is yet another excuse to beat ourselves up. That’s why acceptance is so important. Accepting that we have a habit, without being self-critical, opens up the door to personal transformation.
So how can we develop this awareness? It’s simple, but not easy if that makes sense. We just need to slow down, turn our awareness inwards a little and notice the little things we are doing. For example, how often do we fail to listen to the sound of our own voice as we speak. Here’s a little exercise to help you practice this.
Take yourself to a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for a few minutes. Somewhere you can speak out loud without feeling embarrassed. Now, cup your hands behind your ears and start to speak out loud. Listen to the sound of your own voice as you move your hands backwards and forwards. As your hands come in closer to your head, you should start to notice the sound of your voice becoming louder. Now speak a few sentences listening to each word as you say it. If you have a tendency to insert um’s, err’s or filler words, use this practice session to slow down and “edit out” these irritating little phrases before you speak them.
This is one small example of how you can develop your awareness and use it to make small subtle changes to improve your presentation skills.
A second example involved my old habit of rubbing and touching my nose as I was speaking. I was entirely unconscious of it while all my audiences were all too aware of it. Then one day, a good friend finally gave me feedback on it. I was shocked and embarrassed at first, but I got over it when I realised how valuable this new information was. I was able to become mindful of what I was doing with my hands and to drop this irritating public speaking habit.
Oh and, by the way, If you are interested in finding more about Qui Gong, why not check out Nilima’s beautiful website.