10 Tips for Speaking with Focus and Composure

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    stressThese days we all seem to be engaged in multi-tasking, running from one meeting to another without a moment’s reflection in between. There is barely a moment to catch our breath, let alone time to mentally prepare for the next meeting. It’s stressful and exhausting, especially when you need to speak or present. It should come as no surprise that we don’t perform at our best when we begin in a distracted state like this.

    Effective communication requires us to be in a calm, focused state of mind. Our lifestyles make this difficult, but smart leaders have figured out strategies and habits to help them focus and speak well under any circumstance. Consider which of these might help you:

    1. Schedule transition time between meetings, especially those in which you need to lead, speak or present. You might even schedule a short break in between critical meetings.
    2. Pay attention to transit time. Are you driving to a different building or walking to a different meeting room? Be realistic about the time it will take to get there and settle in.
    3. Plan ahead. The day before or the morning of your back to back meetings, get everything ready and in place. Folders? Files? Slides? Documents? Separate piles or desktop shortcuts for each meeting might be useful so you can see and grab what you need.
    4. Eat and hydrate appropriately. If your tummy is growling and your blood sugar has crashed, it is going to be difficult to concentrate. Use a power bar and a glass of water if you need to so that your body is fueled for action even if you don’t have time to have a proper meal.
    5. Prepare your body. Stand up and stretch. Take a little walk down the hall and back again. Roll your shoulders. Breathe deeply. Touch your toes or run up the stairs before getting back.
    6. Eliminate distractions. Before each meeting, close out email and other distractions, turn away from the computer screen (unless you are on a video call) and set aside the files or documents you aren’t using for this meeting.
    7. Breathe. Three nice deep breaths to remind your brain and body that something new is coming. Feel your body being present, your feet on the floor, your arms and shoulders relaxed.
    8. Pay attention to your internal dialog. Instead of feeling dread and anxiety, remember why this is important. Remind yourself to be present and in the moment. Be open to whatever happens.
    9. Think about your intentions. If you are speaking, take a moment to remember what you wanted to say. What is most important about this meeting or presentation? What do you want the listeners to remember about it?
    10. Smile. Greet the people who are there with you in person and virtually. Make the human connection that can be missing in all these back to back meetings.

    Hope this is helpful as you prepare for your next meeting. Bottom line: instead of just going through the motions, you can be fully relaxed, alert and present.