Preparation is key to delivering a powerful presentation, and channelling inspiration from the performing arts or sporting arenas could help leave a lasting impression on your audience.
Writing at Inc., Fia Fasbinder, chief executive of The MOXiE Institute, observes that actors, athletes and speakers all share a common need to perform.
Like actors and athletes, Fasbinder says speakers need to the prefect the art of warming up. Those that don’t are at risk of losing credibility if they “appear uncertain or, worse, completely unprepared”.
“Warming up ensures you are present and focused on what you have to say,” she says.
“Speak like the professional you are when you’re in front of an audience by preparing before you have an audience. Even if that means while waiting in the wings – or dugout.”
Expending physical energy can help you loosen up and shake any nerves before speaking in public, says Fasbinder.
“Start by spreading your feet shoulder-width apart,” she says.
“Without bending, raise one arm straight up, reaching as high as you can for about four seconds. Repeat with the other arm. Rotate your arms and shoulders outward as you pull your arms back and down, letting your elbows lead the way down.
“This stretch will release that nervous energy and help you centre yourself to mentally warm up.”
Being mentally prepared will help to stay calm before delivering a presentation. This involves counteracting any negative internal dialogue, says Fasbinder, who recommends trying deep-breathing exercises.
“Imagine you have a balloon situated in your navel and the goal of every breath you take is to have it completely expand,” she advises.
“When you exhale, you want the balloon to completely deflate. Repeat this until your body is thoroughly oxygenated.”
Your voice is your instrument and needs to be included in your warm-up routine, says Fasbinder.
She points to advice from Jeannette Nelson, the head of voice at the UK’s National Theatre, who suggests humming.
“The voice connects a speaker’s body and mind,” Fasbinder writes.
“Hum a few bars of your favourite song as you roll your head. Then, try some vocal function exercises, which are designed to strengthen your laryngeal musculature. In short: they’ll make you a more powerful speaker.
“You want to avoid having a breathy tone by keeping your voice ‘forward’ in your mouth but not too nasally. The goal is to last for 30 seconds.”
Having the right mindset
In addition to warming up, Fasbinder says having the right attitude can deliver the edge needed to make an impact.
Fasbinder points to the mental preparation of US Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, who plays “out all outcomes of his races in his mind”, and “is prepared to deal with any situation that might arise”.
“This allows Phelps to ‘roll-with-the-punches’ and never be taken by surprise,” she observes.
“Planning for success, preparing for success and seeing success will help you to achieve success. Increased motivation means increased returns. Seeing is believing, after all.”