Updated: Jul 31, 2020
The simple art that anyone can learn, but most find challenging to master is the art of ‘Being Present’. I have been a teacher for more than 25 years, and every time, the teachers take attendance, the students say that they are “Present” and most teachers would even joke about it because they know that sometimes, students are only physically present in the class. Ironically, isn’t that what we do most of the time? Don’t many of us pretend that we are entirely present during a meeting, a conference or even our family gatherings when clearly, we are not?
Do you have ten tasks running through your mind or are you focused on the most important task? When you have ten crucial tasks to do, and you are wholly immersed in completing one task and then moving on to the next, you are present. When I wrote my previous blog on “The power of the ‘One Thing’ that changed my work productivity!”, many readers asked me if it is even possible to focus on just one thing and is it a practical solution in today’s world? I believe that it is possible and yes, it does require practice.
The goal of being present is to be in a state of active, open awareness, learning and interacting with that experience in a non-judgmental manner. When you are in the present, you pay attention to the task at hand and are purposive.
Being present is a critical skill to learn for anyone and more so, in the field of communication, presentations and public speaking because their ultimate purpose is to inspire the audience to hear, understand, remember and move to action. The art of ‘Being Present’ is the one thing that sets apart an extraordinary, inspiring presenter from tons of average and insipid speakers. Many would say that it is more than one thing. I believe that it is just that one thing that makes all the difference.
Presentations and Public speaking itself are stressful, and it brings with it a gamut of fears, anxieties and limiting beliefs about ourselves. I have seen many people focus on fear rather than on the presentation itself. Learning the art of ‘Being Present’ will reduce stress and increase the confidence of any presenter.
Being present in whatever you do needs lots of practice and let me share three secrets that have helped me to be present during my presentations.
1. Setting the Intention for a presentation:
- Deepak Chopra
A practice that has worked very well for me is having an intention at every stage of the presentation. Writing out the Intention and being very specific about what you want to put out to the Universe is a powerful start to a presentation. The thing with setting intentions is that they are flexible and allows you to re-evaluate. I have no control over the outcome of my presentations, but creating the intentions and allowing it to manifest, aligns with my values and helps me stay on track. I now recognize that is when my fear of presentations started dissipating.
2. The ‘Hakalau’: It is the practice of putting oneself into a ‘learning state’. Hakalau originates from the ancient Hawaiian system and is the “the walking meditation of the kahuna”. It an incredible process to place yourself in a state where there are no negative emotions, and you have complete awareness. Whatever you are doing, you do it 100%. I practice Hakalau, a peripheral awareness technique every time before I go on stage.
There are five steps to this light form of meditation.
- Pick a spot on the wall to look at, just above eye level.
- As you look at the spot, just allow your mind to relax and focus your attention on that spot
- Notice as you stare at the spot; within a few minutes, your vision will begin to spread out. Allow yourself to see more of the peripheral then you do in the central part of the vision.
- Slowly pay attention to the peripheral and increase your awareness to the peripheral than to the central part of the vision
- Stay in this state for as long as you can. If you are in a room, become aware of the sides, corners and even beyond the room. Notice the feelings that begin to come to you as you continue in that state.
3. Connecting with the audience: Connecting with the audience is more than standing on stage or a conference room and presenting slides. My connection with the audience begins when I start crafting my message. In every step of the presentation, I step in and out of the shoes of my audience to design and deliver my presentation. Find out what your audience wants to hear, then talk about that.
Creating compelling visuals that can impact your audience is one way of connecting. Being in the moment, telling stories, allowing the audience to discover, explore, question and last but not the least letting them leave with a call-to-action are all ways to connecting and engaging the audience.
Are you aware that your one talk, your one presentation on any topic can change a person’s life? How would you design and deliver your presentation if you knew that? What would you be willing to give up to be ‘completely present’ so that your presentation can impact lives? When you come to think of it, you really do not have to give up much.
You only need to ‘be present’!
“The best way to take care of the future is to take care of the present moment.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh