One of the fundamentals of stage presence is staying present. Let me give you a counter example that most of us can relate to. Right before your presentation, all that you can think of is getting it done and over with. All you are present to is your nerves and inner voices, like “What if I forget my speech?” or “What if the audience gets bored?” Even during your presentation, all you can think of is rushing through so that you can get back into your seat. And right after your presentation, you have no idea what happened. Did your audience get your message? Were you on time? Did you finish what you wanted to say? All you can remember is saying thank you and getting back in your seat. You don’t even recall if the audience clapped for you and all you can feel is relief that it is all over. Familiar?
A lot of us unconsciously spent most of our time during a presentation thinking about what has just happened (eg. forgetting what to say) or about what might happen next (eg. what if I run out of time?) And they totally forget about being aware of the present moment with the audience. As a result, the audience feel ignored, miserable and lost, which makes the presenter panic even more. Note the self fulfilling prophecy.
To quote the book again (Peak Performance Presentation), being present means that you are aware of what is happening inside you and you are aware of what is happening around you, in the moment in which it is happening. Yes, this may sounds obvious but how many of us have actually settled in this kind of awareness?
One of the easiest ways to become present to your surroundings is through relaxation, in case you haven’t realize! Relaxation eases the tension in your body, releases your negative energies and help sensitize yourself to your surroundings.
But how can one relax while being wrecked by his nerves? Chill, I will come to that soon (in the White Dog vs. Black Dog post). But for now, I want you to familiarize yourself with this relaxation technique that even a three year old kid can do. Come to think about it, don’t children do that a lot?
This relaxation exercise can take as short as 5 mins or as long as you deemed fit. I would strongly recommend you to try it right before every presentation, especially if you feel all worked up.
- Find a place where you can do this exercise, without being disturbed. You may not be able to find a place to lie down but don’t worry. Sitting down on a chair works too.
- Close your eyes and start paying attention to how your body feels right now. Take note of where your hands are placed. Notice the sensation between your butt with the chair and your feet with the ground.
- Begin to pay attention to your breathing, as if you were noticing it for the first time.
- Take a series of increasingly deep breaths. When you take in the oxygen, you should feel your mid stomach - where your navel is - being pushed out. And when you breathe out, your mid stomach should be sucked back in. You also want to take your time to breathe in and out. Don’t rush. The slower you breathe, the more effective is the exercise. I would recommend that you take 20 breaths.
- If you want, you can also imagine yourself in a soothing place. It could be in the forest where you can be close to Mother Nature or at your favorite getaway place with your loved ones. The intention is to put yourself in a safe and relaxing environment.
- Open your eyes and get up slowly. Take note of how you feel.
For most people, you will feel a sense of inner peace. The noises in your head either reduced or disappeared altogether. You feel much more energized and recharged. Sometimes it even feels like you have just slept eight hours. You will also become more aware of your surroundings. You begin to notice sounds that you may be ignorant to before. And everything around you will also appear brighter and richer in color.
Quite frankly, there is no better way than to experience it for yourself! C’mon, try it!
P.S: As I was writing this post, I stumbled upon another exercise which helps you stay present. Click here to learn Steve Pavlina’s Presence Walk.