Three quarters of an hour into a coaching session today, my “coachee” – in the midst of some deep, appreciative, soul-searching – suddenly lifted his head and laughed, “I thought this was supposed to be Presentation coaching!”
You’re right. I responded. It is.
I think clients are often surprised at the way I ask them to think, or to question themselves. What does their new hobby or their favourite subject at school have to do with “being a better presenter”?
It’s all related.
Nothing in our lives exists in a vacuum (except perhaps that MASSIVE spider you were too afraid to get with a glass and a postcard!) all the parts of you that go into making up the whole that is you have an impact on the way you think, stand, gesture, speak…
If you don’t believe me, by all means go and look up the Reticulo-spinal Tract. In Medical School they refer to it as “the scientific basis for body-language”. It is constantly relaying information between the postural and emotional areas of the brain. And is the reason you might cross your arms when defending your argument, or point one foot to the door when the conversation becomes tedious.
And voice is no different. Voice is intrinsically linked to our sense of self; to our emotions. Our earliest vocal sounds are the deeply-rooted, guttural cries and squeals of childhood that wordlessly seek to express our hunger, fear, sorrow, anger, joy, love!
With time and interaction, we acquire language the means by which to describe the abstract. Our appetites, our phobias, our melancholy, rage, elation and desires suddenly have newfound release. And with increased experience we layer expectation – personal, interpersonal, social, societal, generational, historical etc. etc. etc. – on top of our external expressions of belief and craft them to be not merely acceptable but celebrated.
All those layers of expectation, all that history – without even touching on self-doubt, censure, parental criticism etc. etc. – are there in you; invisibly documenting your history like the hidden rings of a tree. When we stand up in front of even one other person and seek to tell a story (of whatever kind) all those layers have a profound impact on the sound we make and the impression we give.
A big part of what I do requires looking at those hidden/forgotten influences and exploring with you how they affect your impact. For example… If my client suddenly reveals that, “Actually, d’you know what? Knitting makes me SO relaxed…” well, that is something we can use. I’m not precious about how we find answers. It’s coaching, not problem solving. I give you some exercises, some guidance, we talk, and we find the path that is right for you. If 2minutes of knitting enables you to find centred, deep breathing and a resonant delivery (unlikely, but I’m running with the thread!) then bring your needles! It doesn’t mean I’m going to advocate that you sit in front of the Board knitting a scarf but it’s useful information – for you as much as me!
It’s an holistic approach for sure. But that’s how it really should be done – not just “bolting on” a couple of handy mnemonics. And if you’re the kind of person who shudders at the thought of having to stand up in front of people and present – in whatever capacity – there are very few quick fixes. As the saying goes: You can either do the job quickly or do the job right. So let’s do it right. Start from the ground up and you’ll not only see, but feel, the changes.