Being prepared to speak is about more than simply the words you’re going to say. You need to be mentally, physically and emotionally fit to make a positive first impression. There aren’t any do-overs in a presentation.
Develop Mental Toughness
It’s important to take care of yourself at every level. Being fit includes building mental toughness. You’ll be more alert by getting enough sleep the night before your presentation. Mental fitness also means being totally conversant about your topic and up to date on new developments in your industry.
Sometimes things go wrong, like having the microphone die in the middle of your presentation.
You need to be mentally sharp to improvise if that happens to you. You could say, “Well, at this point I wasn’t planning on taking questions. I’m told that power will return soon, so let’s use this down time. I’ll be happy to answer any of your questions. I used to be a junior high school teacher so I know how to project!”
You don’t want to be caught flat-footed like the NFL officials at the Superdome in New Orleans who were stuck without a response when half the lights went off for 32 minutes during the Super Bowl.
Become Physically Fit
Delivering presentations exacts a physical toll, especially when you’re traveling. It takes the endurance of a marathoner to be a company spokesperson: pack your bag, rush to the airport, take the red-eye to your next stop on the circuit, rush to the venue, deliver your talk, run to the airport. Then repeat. These spokespersons are true road warriors!
Delivering a presentation is like running a marathon. You have to pace yourself and not sprint or you’ll run out of steam. Building your endurance will not only help you look better but feel better. Exercising on a regular basis and eating a balanced diet, including protein, carbs and fruit is a must. Travelers need to have a stash of portable snacks with them such as almonds, an apple or even a hard boiled egg. Stay away from dairy products before a talk, especially milk, because they make you phlegmy.
You don’t need the physique of a body builder or the muscles Daniel Craig developed for his strenuous role as James Bond. You do want to have a commanding physical presence.
Have you noticed that most leaders are physically fit? Former President Obama’s trim build is a compelling part of his image. He looks sleek and moves well. He exudes confidence.
That’s hard to do when you’re overweight.
Some overweight women try to camouflage their size by wearing long, loose clothing with scarves around their necks. But everybody is on to that tactic.
One plump client wore wide pants and very high heels to make a presentation before several hundred people. She actually fell walking up the steps to the stage when her foot caught in the wide cuff of her pants. She thought the high heels would help her look slimmer. Instead, they caused her to land on her butt in the front row of the audience!
We coached the head of IT for a global company who was so heavy he didn’t look like he would live to 50. He traveled constantly so his clothes were always wrinkled. Also, his shirt was too tight and it looked as though the buttons, which couldn’t close over his huge stomach, would pop off any moment. In short, he looked as sloppy as an unmade bed. His appearance took away from his creditability as a leader.
Sometimes even simple fixes make a huge difference in someone’s physical appearance. Eyes are the focal point of your face and can add or detract from your presentation.
The IT leader had very bushy brows which detracted from his appearance. We asked, “How about going to a salon to tame your eyebrows?” He immediately agreed and off we went for his trim. This simple fix made a huge difference. He is now also working with a nutritionist as he was shocked when he saw himself as others do.
Build Emotional Fitness
It’s human to feel nervous before a presentation. Try not to sink into endlessly repeating, “OMG, I don’t know what I’m doing. What will they think of me?” Adopt a more positive mantra. Feel good about yourself. Focus on what you do well.
Videotape yourself and after a particularly good practice session, pause the video at a point where you look especially strong – direct eye contact, authoritative open gestures with direct eye contact. Look at yourself and then carry that image around with you. Replace any negative images you are holding onto with the more positive one.
As a speaker you may never have compared yourself to an athlete – practicing over and over again, becoming physically fit and developing the mental toughness to excel. Public speaking demands the same discipline.
The next time you’re scheduled to speak, think like an athlete. Set yourself up to win, not lose.
Please let us know in the comments box what you do to mentally and physically prepare for your presentations.