Oh my, we have such busy minds. Someone once said, “The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public.” Does it ever feel that way to you?
Our internal chatter goes on all day, and often into the night—that inner voice, commenting on everything and nothing at all. You know this is you have ever tried to clear your mind for meditation. Or if you have ever struggled to sleep the night before a business trip or a major presentation.
I have read that we have something like 70,000 thoughts a day, that 95% of them are repetitive, and that 85% of them are negative. Honestly, none of that helps us when we stand up to present, and we need our brain to be present, positive and focused. How does than incessant chatter help?
Since our mind won’t stop doing what it does best, thinking incessantly and looking for something to chew on, let’s change the channel. Let’s give it some ways to be productive, not distracting, so we can be at our best when we speak in public.
Put your mind to work in a more productive way by trying a few of these strategies:
Think about breathing. Slow your breathing down with a four-count inhale, and a four-count exhale. You can add a four-count pause at the end of each inhale and exhale to make it even more challenging. This should trigger a relaxation response, and at the very least your mind can be kept busy counting the breath and slowing down, rather than stressing out.
Go to a happy place. Picture yourself on a beach, watching the waves roll in and out. Or picture yourself sitting at the top of a mountain, feeling the cool breeze come and go. Picture and feel yourself completely at ease, completely calm.
Listen to pleasing music. See what works best for you. Some people swear by classical music, jazz, alpha waves, new age, or even ambient noise like wind or rain sounds. I would pick something that feels good and keeps drawing your mind toward it, maybe some chants or singing bowls. You want to hear it and focus on it, not let it drift entirely into the background.
Imagine your audience. No, not in their underwear! Picture them with gently smiling faces or nodding and applauding. That won’t automatically happen, but the idea is to focus your brain on something positive, rather than picturing a hostile crowd or worst-case scenario.
Clear your mind. This one isn’t easy, but if you can, let it all go and stop holding your thoughts so tightly. Do a little mental reset. Feel it as you take your next breath. Feel your body as you sit or stand or walk to the front of the room. Take a few seconds to just “be” with your audience. Be present in the moment.
Use a positive affirmation. Something you say to yourself, over and over. I’ve got this, I know my material, my audience needs to hear this, and so on. Let these positive thoughts take over any worry or negative thinking that could be happening if you let it.
Take a hike. Walk up and down the hall. Walk into the restroom to check the mirror. Walk outside for a moment if weather permits. Pay attention to your breathing, your walking and your surroundings. Feel the sunshine, hear the sounds in the room, notice any smells or unusual sights around you. This keeps you grounded in the present.
See your audience as friends. When you are waiting your turn to speak, focus on the people in the room. Look at each person, one by one. See if you can notice what they are wearing, or the color of their eyes. Make them friends, not strangers, in your mind.
Focus on the message, not the details. If you have done your work in preparation and practice, your facts and figures are ready to go. Instead, think about how good it will feel when your audience understands and acts on the information you are about to share with them. How you are actually helping them.
Offer a reward. What can you do to celebrate after your presentation? Imagine your reward; that steaming cup of coffee, or that brisk walk at lunchtime, or that little flower bouquet you are going to buy on the way home. No, really think about them—remember, the idea is to keep your brain working on something that feels good.
In short, you can’t stop that busy mind of yours, which is actually a pretty good thing. But if you try a few of these I am betting you can make it an ally, not your enemy. We’d love to hear what you think and which of these helps you the most.