Practice Makes Perfect
You might not get an opportunity to present every single day. And for some of our readers, that probably brings a huge sigh of relief! If we aren’t presenting on a daily basis though, how do we keep our skills sharp? If practice really does make perfect, then like any other physical skill we need to continuously practice our communication skills and Executive Presence even when we’re not “on”.
Tips on Perfect Practice:
Practice using 1 thought 1 person. Use it with your family at dinner or with your friends at a social gathering. Use it when you’re on a call with someone in the office. Give a thought to your pen, another thought to your water bottle, and a third thought to the computer screen. Does it matter in these situations? No. But the more often you can use it, the easier it will become.
Look at your hands. Right now. Where are they? If they’re in ‘the box’, drop them to your sides. If they’re in your pockets, take them out. If they’re clasped together or crossed in front, let them go. The ‘neutral’ position might feel uncomfortable at first, but it’s only because your muscle memory is comfortable somewhere else. With your hands resting at your sides in the neutral position, you’ll be able to seamlessly gesture to enhance your message and will avoid creating a barrier or a distraction to the audience.
Think about your posture when you’re standing. If you find yourself on a hip or rocking back and forth, plant your feet and stand balanced. Stand in a balanced stance when you’re waiting to check out at the grocery store, standing in line at the café, or when you’re waiting for your morning coffee. The more you put yourself in a balanced position, the less likely you are to pace the front of the room.
Are you speaking loud enough for your audience to hear? If you think (or have been told) you’re a soft speaker, this is low-hanging fruit. If your speaking volume doesn’t feel a bit uncomfortable, you’re probably not loud enough. If presenting to a group, give your first thought to the person furthest away from you. This forces you to use big volume from the start. It’s always easier to start high and stay high than it is to start at a low volume and try to work your way up.
The next time you want to put an ‘uh’ or an ‘um’ between thoughts, stop and close your mouth. Take a breath while you gather a thought, then continue speaking. Most filler or non-words fall on transitions as we finish one thought and begin another. Once we’re aware of them we can begin to go to work on them. Each time you’re inclined to use a non-word, pause in silence before letting one slip out.