Karen Durham-Diggins
Karen Durham-Diggins 11 April 2016

Presenting with Your Body: Overcoming defensiveness

When presenting however well you know or are confident in your product, service or information, if you are in an unfamiliar situation, or place, this can often be uncomfortable and increase any anxiety.

It might be a competitive sales pitch, a thought leadership presentation, round table discussion or a press interview, which you may have experienced before but then something changes. Maybe there are more people than you expected in the audience or room or you recognise a few people you weren’t expecting?  Being asked a question that bears no relation to the topic, pitch or presentation you've been asked to give often throws the un prepared.

Although you may appear to be taking all of this in your stride your body is usually displaying your concern.

Some of these actions will also be habits formed whether you feel nervous or not, they need to be addressed to improve your presentation skills.

So what are the signs and how do you counteract them?

  1. Arms crossed in front of your chest: As this is not a penalty shoot out make sure your arms are loosely by your sides. Then place one elbow just above hip height and use your hand to gesticulate or demonstrate with. If sitting rest your hands on your thighs or loosely hold your hands together on your lap.
  2. Hand clenching: If standing put your hands at your sides, stretch your fingers towards the floor. If sitting place your palms on your thighs and stretch your fingers towards your knees. In both cases leave your fingers slightly apart, is much more difficult to clench your fist with open fingers.
  3. Chest collapse: Not only will you find it harder to breathe but your shirt or blouse will look crumpled, however well it is ironed! Lift your chest, place your shoulders towards your elbows. Then lift your chin up so you look straight ahead to the people or person you are addressing.
  4. Grimacing or frowning: This is tricky to correct in front of your audience but is possible. Take a few seconds and do a face-check,. Relax your jaw let it drop without opening your mouth. Turn the corners of your mouth up slightly and take a long slow breath in and then out. This might seem it is taking ages but it really will take a few seconds and calm you to enable you to continue with confidence.
  5. Eye contact: For people to believe and trust what someone is saying they not only need to see your eyes but you need to look at them. Your audience is going to see you as engaged with them. Whatever you say will be much more powerful and believable. If you are thinking about what you are going to say next, you can lower your eyes but don’t look away or off to the ceiling. Having thought what to say make sure you lift your chin up as you go to speak. If addressing an audience make sure you scan across and up and down the room – slowly – as you speak.

Before presenting practise these exercises, they serve as a good warm up and you’ll be prepared should any of these occur in the future. If you are well prepared and rehearse beforehand any of these manifestations of anxiety can be overcome easily and quickly.

As part of developing a communications strategy Karen Durham-Diggins provides one-2-one Executive and business coaching for presentations, personal development, competitive pitches and thought leadership.

For further information please contact her:

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