This post was originally titled “Presentation Checklist: Staying Focused.”
Then, in the midst of writing, my mind wandered once again to Star Trek (which may tell you a bit more about me than you care to know) and I suddenly realized: many of these tips for staying focused were demonstrated by the various crews of the USS Enterprise. No, really. Just go with me, here—
Presenting well is as much about staying focused as it is about having engaging, audience-centered content. You need to keep your head in the game—staying clear, calm and set on your communication goals—no matter how your audiences and environments may change…
…just like the captain of a starship needs to stay focused on the mission, even in the face of wide-eyed, suspicious blue aliens with large foreheads.
Too much of a stretch? Check out this list and tell me the starship captain, first officer and crew didn’t leave us some valuable tips on how to stay focused.
Send an away team before landing. When speaking to a new group, arrive early to greet or speak to a few audience members. Get the lay of the land and assess the environment. You’ll be guaranteed at least a few smiling faces and positive nonverbal support when you start to speak, and you’ll be less likely to be surprised by ill winds or evil forces.
Remember the Prime Directive. Before you begin your presentation, take a moment to remind yourself why you’re here and why you’re speaking. Focus on the positive end result, not the minutiae of the moment. Use self-talk to focus on your mission.
Embrace your humanity. Experiencing nervous energy in front of an audience is as common to humans as opposable thumbs. Everyone knows what that rush feels like. So embrace your humanity and remember your goal is not to eliminate nervous energy; it’s to channel it in a productive way. That energy is your personal well of dilithium crystals.
Breathe. You don’t need a tricorder to know that public speaking requires increased breath support, but you may need to remind yourself of the fact. Being mindful in your breathing before you speak will calm you; pausing during your presentation gives the audience time to process what you say. Plan spots in your presentation when you will purposefully stop and breathe. (Though avoid William Shatner’s halting speech pattern.)
Be realistic. You don’t have to be perfect. If you misspeak or begin to lose focus, pause, correct the course and continue. When necessary, admit the misstep before moving on; your audience will appreciate it. Even the most seemingly infallible first officers know that.
Still too much of a stretch? Well, go boldly, nonetheless. And focus.
Post by John Capecci; originally published on TalentGear.com.