“The human brain starts working the moment you are born – and only stops working the moment you stand up to Present to an audience!” Sir George Jessel
A really nice quote about Presentation Skills and the pit-falls of same. And admit it – come on, we’ve all been there – at least (and even if only) the once:
Standing there, mouth agape, like a landed guppy – gulping for air through a dry throat, as your palms and forehead sweat away any-and-all remaining moisture left in your body.
The blood has drained away from your head and you are now feel curiously light headed and “out of body”. You’ve lost the capacity to think straight – and you are starting to panic…
And within a matter of milli-seconds (that feel like several aching hours to you – and possibly to your audience too!) you now feel as if you are standing next to yourself somehow, watching some idiot flail about like an octopus falling out of a tree (!)
And then it dawns on you: “Oh just a minute – that idiot-come-flailing-octopus I’m watching – that’s me that is!” And the decent into madness and to an appauling Presentation is complete…
Yes, nerves and the “wrong kind of adrenaline” have taken hold, and are trying to strangle you!
Enter Tommy Cooper – my Grandfather’s all time absolute favourite Comedian – and a good excuse for a great clip and a Joke (exactly 3 minutes in) about another part of your body that’s also got it in for you: Your feet!
“My feet are killing me. Every night when I go to sleep – they grab hold of my throat and try to strangle me!” Marvellous!
So anyway – back to my point and to the original quote at the beginning of this blog:
Why do we often feel so strangulated? And why – despite all of our apparent best efforts to prepare – does it still all seem to go so horribly wrong, at the exact point of standing up to Present?
More often than not – and this links directly to Presence and Impact (or rather more worryingly – your apparent lack of it, if all is going so horribly wrong at this precise moment in front of your audience!) the reason why this is happening to you: is that you have simply forgotten to BREATHE!
So often, when under stress, we allow ourselves to succumb to something I like to call a “Dumbbell Moment”: Whereby we have forgotten to breathe – and it is as if we have just lifted a huge weight above our heads at the precise moment of arriving – centre stage – and opening our mouths to speak. (The weight of course being a metaphor for the weight of the responsibility of having to stand up and present in the first place! And it is the weight itself that causes us to clench, tighten our muscles and forget to breathe…)
Moreover – at this precise point of lack of breath control – it is also highly likely that you are compounding things even further, by actively holding your breath (hence the thought pattern: “my nerves are trying to strangle me!”) instead of doing exactly the reverse of that – and breathing in deeply – as deeply as you possibly can in fact, in the few moments before you speak:
The last few moments or seconds before you speak are precisely the point at which you need to take deliberate and overt control of your breathing – to STOP the blood draining away from your head and to counter-act your nerves. And in this way work with – as opposed to against – your adrenaline – to restore your ability to communicate effectively.
So yes – remember the adage: “Adrenaline is my friend!”
And it really is: Adrenaline is there to HELP you – to invoke a “fight” as opposed to a “flight” response – to help take your performance-level up a notch or two: To a level of performance far greater in fact, than if your adrenaline wasn’t there at all.
“We all get butterflies…” to quote my friend and fellow Working Voices Trainer Mr Henry Caplan in New York, “but the trick is to make sure that all of your butterflies fly in formation!”
Henry Caplan Ladies & Gentlemen! You can’t teach that!
So to sum up, repeat after me: “Adrenaline is my friend!” – and don’t forget to breathe…
Welcome to the Cult of Effective Presentation Skills!