By Rachael Kable
The first time I spoke at an event, there was a big moment which took me by surprise. After being introduced to the audience, I stood up and moved to the front of the room and, suddenly, everyone was looking at me. It was like I'd been given an injection of fear. I'd spent months preparing my talk, weeks practising out loud and that whole day doing all the self-care routines I could think of. It still didn't stop that big moment from taking my breath away.
As an introvert with an ingrained fear of public speaking, the fear was totally expected and luckily, I had a plan of action! On each of my cue cards, I'd written a short mindfulness routine to look at whenever I was feeling overwhelmed. This routine was short, simple and easily incorporated into my talk to help me stay grounded and as calm as possible.
My mindful routine went like this:
Those three simple words guided me through the whirlwind of speaking in front of 60 women for twenty minutes, using only a few cue cards. For someone who used to read speeches word for word while shaking, sweating, stammering and stressing, this was a massive transformation. I whole-heartedly believe that using a mindful routine empowered me to speak to the best of my ability (and actually enjoy it!). Below, you'll find each step of my mindful routine explored in more detail, so you can understand and implement this routine yourself!
The reminder to breathe was especially important. When we're nervous or stressed, our breath becomes shallow and sharp and we might not even notice. By simply taking one, deep breath, we disconnect from the space of fear and signal to our bodies that we're safe. It's a moment to refresh, find clarity and create calm.
Breathing is also an important aspect of talking, allowing our voices to project strongly and confidently across the room. It feels weird to stop talking (even just for a few seconds!) while you're in the middle of presenting. However, from the audience's perspective, it is totally normal. If you watch confident public speakers, you will often hear pauses and silence. In some ways, it adds to the power of their speech because it allows time for their message to sink in.
Mindfulness creates so many opportunities to connect meaningfully with other people. In my own life, my relationships have been strengthened by less multi-tasking, more awareness of how other people are feeling and enjoying the time I spend with my loved ones, rather than worrying about anything else.
Connection with my audience was something I genuinely wanted to foster during my talk, however, I knew it would be easy to get swept away by nerves, fear and excitement. So, I added it to my mindful routine. Whether it meant a simple smile to someone, using open body language, or making eye contact, mindful connection allowed me to share my message, rather than tell it. I could see listeners acknowledging and responding to my words and it encouraged me to keep going!
Tapping into a sensation in my body was a simple way to keep bringing myself back to the present. A few times during my talk, my mind was distracted by unhelpful thoughts such as “I wish I hadn't said that” and “I'm not good at this.” As soon as I noticed a thought like that, I deliberately focused on a sensation, such as the material of my dress, my feet on the ground, or the movement of my hands. In a couple of seconds, I'd disconnected from my unhelpful thought, become present and prepared myself to keep moving forward. It might not seem like much, however this little practice stopped me from feeling overwhelmed by my own negative thoughts or limiting beliefs and gave me the chance to keep going without their influence.
If speaking is something you want (or have!) to do during your event, try using this mindful routine to enhance your time in the spotlight. Even if you don't feel comfortable being there, mindfulness can be a powerful practice to help you deliver your message passionately and confidently, while engaging with your audience.
Rachael Kable is a passionate mindfulness mentor, blogger and host of her top-rated podcast, The Mindful Kind. When she's not writing or helping women create meaningful mindfulness practices, you'll find Rachael cuddling her fun-loving pooch, stretching out on her yoga mat, or enjoying delicious coffee. To connect with Rachael, head over to her online space at www.rachaelkable.com
Image credits belong to Rachael Kable