Being present with your audience is an important aspect of the skill of presenting. This is the act of giving your full attention to your audience and having all your thoughts and feelings fixed on the task in hand.
We can identify when we are not present when we are formulating a response to someone in our minds or thinking of what to say next when they are speaking. This means we are not fully present with what they are saying. Taking a breath, slowing down and giving yourself time to respond means you won’t miss any vital points being expressed.
There are so many things to consider when delivering an effective, impactful presentation that sometimes your internal thoughts and feelings can sabotage your ability to remain present. Particularly if your stress response becomes triggered you may become aware of more negative internal dialogue or “self-talk” together with feelings of anxiety or overwhelm.
One thing you can do to help yourself if this situation arises is to literally change your focus. Most of the time you use what is called foveal vision, this is in the centre of your visual field where your visual acuity is at its highest. You use this part of your vision when focussing on a computer screen or reading though your notes before giving a presentation.
TIP: Change your focus.
The central part of your vision is linked to the arousal of the sympathetic nervous system (the involuntary part which is associated with activity, adrenalin and stress). It has the action of focussing your attention internally on your thoughts and feelings, which can inhibit your capacity to perform effectively. Especially true if you are made more aware of any anxiety or negative self-talk.
The vision at the outermost edges of your visual field is called the peripheral vision. This is linked to the parasympathetic nervous system (associated with relaxation and calmness). Before giving a presentation it can be useful to adjust your focus to your peripheral vision allowing you to feel calm and be present with your audience.
Simply find a spot on the wall in front of you, slightly higher than your eyes. Extend your arms straight out in front of you roughly at the level of your eyes, palms facing inwards. Keep looking straight ahead and slowly open out your arms. Pay attention to your hands as they move further out, begin to wiggle your fingers and see how far back you can take them whilst maintaining awareness. The quality of your vision may change as you move outwards. This expanded awareness in your visual field is your peripheral vision. Enjoy feeling more relaxed!
For further information on managing stress whilst presenting contact Hazel Miller, at Mdina International
Author: Hazel Miller