June 5, 2007

Get grounded

I ran into a client yesterday who has a speaking engagement this week and mentioned her tendency to get out of breath when speaking. My answer to her also reminded me of Rowan's topic request last month. So here's a post about grounding yourself.

The reason that a lot of people run out of air when speaking is that they haven't grounded themselves. Another word for this is centering, although centering is more about being in touch with your body through its center, or core, and grounding is more about being in touch with your body through its connection with the ground. Same concept, though.

Imagine that you're getting ready to give a presentation. You're sitting in your chair, tense and nervous. When you're introduced to speak, you trot up to the stage quickly, because you don't want to make anyone wait for you.

You shake the hand of your introducer and you turn to the audience and immediately begin speaking. They are still clapping, but stop once you begin. You race through your talk, hoping to get it over as soon as possible. Forget breathing, you just talk as fast as you can! You lean on one foot, then the other. Your muscles are tight, your knees are locked, and a stiff breeze could knock you over.

You finish your talk, head back to your seat, and finally take a deep breath of relief. It's over!

Now imagine this scenario. You're sitting in your chair, waiting to speak. Your feet are flat on the floor, feeling the solid ground under you. You take several deep breaths. Because you've already warmed up and done some stretches on your own before taking your seat, you feel loose and relaxed in your body, but to release a little tension, you clench and unclench your hands and feet a few times. No one knows your little secret!

When you are introduced, you stand and walk confidently to the stage. You don't hurry. You make eye contact with your introducer, smile and thank her while you shake her hand. You turn your body to face the audience.

Your knees are loose, not locked. Your feet are set about shoulder width apart in a comfortable stance. Your weight is evenly distributed and you feel solid, connected to the ground but flexible so you can move (this is sometimes called a "power stance"). Your arms are relaxed, your head is up and your eyes make contact with the audience.

You feel your body, your posture, your hands, feet, and gut. You're in your body, not in your head, not in your worries and anxiety.

You take a deep breath and smile at the audience. They're clapping, and you wait until they're finished. You acknowledge and connect with one or two people, and silently give gratitude for the opportunity to share your knowledge with such a warm and welcoming audience. This feeling of gratitude makes you smile even more.

When the applause dies down, you begin speaking. You're loose and warmed up. Your voice is clear and strong and well-supported by your breathing. You're well-prepared, so you don't even have to think about your next words. You pause when appropriate, not worried at all about hurrying through your talk. You move with purpose, not skittishness, and your gestures are natural, not forced. You feel energy flowing out of you toward the audience and coming back from them.

At the end, you've given the audience everything you've got and you feel a little tired, but energized. You're calm and relaxed, and full of satisfaction. You know you've done a great job.

That's grounded. :-)

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4 comments. Please add yours! :

Harmonia said...

What a great picture! haha

Mikki said...

Hey Lisa,
I did ground myself before speaking. (I'm familiar with grounding because I practiced tai chi for years.) And that was the best public speaking experience I've ever had! I had no problems breathing, even in the beginning. What a blast!!!

thanks for your help,

Lisa Braithwaite said...

That's great, Mikki! Congratulations!

Megan Matthieson said...

Thanks for this Lisa! Must try to remember for Tues. night. :) I've been at a conference, and sure enough, every time I thought I would need to speak- even from my chair, the heart started racing. Hard! I'm really glad to have met you and get the opportunity to PRACTICE!!

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