CONSCIOUS SPEAKING: Agile presentations to illustrate, inspire and surprise!

Public speaking, today, represents a very different challenge than it was so far ago. Today, audience shorter attentional times, limited patience, and the immediate reaction to speeches wrapped in starchy rhetoric and strident postulates make us rethink how we express ourselves in these particular times we are going through. Even beyond communication, it is time to review how we relate with ourselves and with others.

We have noticed that a greater impact on the audience can be achieved by speaking from our own life experiences, as equals, sharing our knowledge, in a humble and agile way. Leadership models have changed. The vertical and directive paradigm that prevailed in the last hundred years generated leaderships that have been sustained based on the strength and success impetus.

However, today someone who speaks confidently but without stridency, humbly but without hesitation, and above all with the human sense that resonates in our minds when we hear someone sharing his own experiences, doubts, or fears; results more inspiring than someone who speaks from a reveled truth with absolutisms and some determinisms that are aimed more to dominate (or indoctrinate) than to the construction of a shared value.

That's why the proposal to relate with others from a Conscious Speaking invites us to be aware of various dimensions. That is, observational scopes where what we want to communicate, transcends the mere limits of ideas diffusion or the expression of messages. We refer to achieve a connection in various levels and from there generate a wider experience to make a shared construction of what we are communicating (or better said, co-creating). Speaker and audience are no longer separated by a stage, a pulpit, or a coffee table. Everything takes part in the same experience, like a dance.

And it is precisely on that consciousness dance where these dynamic takes place. In this dynamic, the focus is no longer on the message, nor in the speaker nor even in the listener. The focus is on what happens in the intertwining of all that; that is, the experience. It is the emergent of the summation of all these elements where the consciousness leaves its footprint. So, when all these aspects converge harmoniously and are aligned, we enter a very different space. The edges of the experience get blur.The notion of time disappears. Like when we are at the cinema wrapped up in the plot of a movie. We don’t register we are in a room; neither the distance to the screen or the location of the speakers from which the sound is coming. We are within the scene. We even lose the dimension of our bodies. We forget we are sitting on a cinema armchair, surrounded by strangers. It is there when the story surrounds us, and minutes go by, without realizing it. All kinds of forms disappear. We are simply at present. Perhaps it is because of human nature that we feel so drawn to stories that happen in front of us.

We are trapped and seduced by their narrative. Even many times a story without much brightness wrap us by the way it is presented. This phenomenon is not new; it has happened since the beginning of times since we began as a society to gather around the fire to share our experiences. Mom or dad did it too when they told us a bedtime story when we were little.

It also happens as adults when we abstract ourselves from the outside world, captivated by a TV show, a newscast, a sports show, or whatever. It seems as we disappear… we dissolve, right? To train as a Conscious Speaker turns out to be not only an interesting but also a challenging activity since it not only involves learning techniques to speak in public or to communicate effectively but also is related to learn howto generate experiences in others while transforming ourselves as speakers or communicators.

This goes beyond the mere content of a presentation. I have worked for years with people who usually give presentations that are often very technical or “cold”. However, achieving that the audience is involved, interested, and understands the topic, depends more on the qualities of the presenter than the characteristics of the topic itself.

When the presenter expresses himself with passion, manages different climates, and connects with people, the presentation loses all coldness or boredom, no matter how technical. To achieve this, the method that leads us to Conscious Speaking, implies, in the first place to learn how to be aware of (that is, to be conscious) at least of four primary domains: 1. The consciousness of the content to be provided, 2. The consciousness of the resources to be used, 3. The consciousness of the context for the experience and 4. The consciousness of ourselves The level of consciousness we get in each domain will determine the degree of connection with each of them. Then, higher levels of consciousness imply higher levels of connection. The result will be then, the kind of experience obtained.

The following graphs show how every dimension of the consciousness connects with the other three.

The more closely linked are these dimensions, the bigger will be the space of unified consciousness. That is the nucleus where all the dimensions connect: The experience.

This is why; it turns out to be so important to work with the four dimensions properly, keep them equilibrated and aligned, to get wider experiences. When one of them fails, it risks the whole presentation, because it impacts the other three.

For example, we may be very conscious of the content and be very connected with each concept, but not connected with the audience. As a result, the audience may quickly lose attention as it's unlikely to get involved with the topic, (unless it is a topic of special interest to the whole audience). In the same way, we may be connected with the audience, but not with the topic. Then, we probably get easily distracted, talk ambiguously, or be less precise because the content will not be solid enough.

Likewise, we can be very connected with the topic and with the audience but disconnected from ourselves. The risk now is to easily lose focus since we are not concentrated as we should be.

Finally, we may be very connected with ourselves and with the content but not with the audience and the context; then we may not be able to perceive the reaction of the audience nor to talk in a comprehensible language for them, so they may get bored or away from what is being presented.

Sometimes after a presentation I observed, many speakers very satisfied with what they had done, but at the same time an unsatisfied audience, without presenters noticing. They simply didn't realize it. They were so busy within their minds.

And the list may continue. Many examples may show the effects of the absence of connection or an insufficient connection.

That's why, training to get more consciousness in these four levels, will allow us to achieve a presentation that at least accomplish the following basic requirements:

1. It must illustrate: that is, express a concept or a concrete idea. Is the objective and concrete part of a presentation.

2. It must inspire: that is, generate an emotion that invites us to ponder, get conscious of something or take action.

3. It must surprise: that is, to generate curiosity or interest to call people's attention.

And… how do we achieve that?

To expand the consciousness in any of the domains mentioned before, first, it is necessary to identify the level of consciousness of each of them. Then there are many possible strategies. Let's see some of them.

The consciousness of the content: It implies the degree of understanding of the topic to be presented. The topic may have significant amounts of information. The level of consciousness is not determined by the available knowledge about a certain topic but by the register of the amount of information required to make the presentation. The limit of the necessary knowledge will be given by the available time, possible audience expectations, and the scope that can be given to the subject. No more is required. For example, it is not required to talk about Egypt's history, to know the big bang theory. The difference will be made by the understanding of the idea to transmit and not by the volume of information involved.

It is not required to be an aeronautic engineer to make paper planes but is crucial that we know well how to make paper planes and what makes them fly when we throw them into the air.

The scope of the topic will be given by the value perceived by the listener and the interest that it's generates in him. This is a basic principle to consider when preparing a presentation and establishing a standard related to the level of knowledge and experience required to express with certain authority our ideas. It is more important to be sure of what we do know and make the most of it than to be insecure about all we are supposed to know, and it is not available.

The key is to be humble about what we don’t know and to be sure of what we do know.

The consciousness of the form: Refers to the resources we are going to use to present those contents. Be conscious of the form means having an adequate understanding and domain of the different resources. We are going to need a structure to develop the ideas in an orderly manner, which consists of an introduction, development, and closure. So, in every stage, different resources can be used. Could be metaphors, stories, or examples that allow us to make the idea more graphic. Also, videos can be played, or some exercises or demonstrations done. What is useful about being conscious of the resources is that it allows us to be present and connected in every step of the explaining, teaching, showing, or developing a concept. As when we eat a bar of delicious chocolate, feeling the flavors and tasting it in diverse ways; aware of the textures and the experiences the chocolate gives us. Is being aware of the way we chew it and taste it.

The consciousness of the context: It will be determined by the environment, the place conditions, the audience characteristics but above all the personal contexts. Being conscious of all these factors implies connecting with the place, the audience, and the personal mood registering what is happening around us and inside us.

It involves sharpening the observation to detect how much the audience is involved. We can detect that in their postures as well as in their looks. If two hundred people in our presentation are looking at their cell phones while we are presenting, probably our presentation is not interesting to them.

The context will give us the immediate information about our presentation status. Our consciousness of the context will allow us to modify the way of what we are saying or adopt new postures to ensure a proper connection with the audience. Likewise, our status will be determinant.

For example, if that day some hours earlier we found out that we had won a millionaire inheritance, surely our predisposition will be different than in normal conditions. We also influence the context with our attitude.

Consciousness of ourselves: It is the natural step that connects the personal context with the inner world, that is, what determines the way we relate with what surrounds us. When referring to a presentation, we find at least two aspects: one of them is more technical and is related to the body: the postures, the look, the voice (diction, air, and the energy with which we speak) and the other one is more ontological since it has to do with our way of being and is also related to our thoughts, emotions, and personal style, at the service of the idea we wish to communicate or the experience we want to generate.

We can achieve more consciousness of ourselves by learning how to register our physical status (identifying tensions and relaxing them, for example), our emotional status (identifying our emotions and generating the most adequate to our presentation), and our thoughts (identifying our mental status and working on some of the beliefs we have).

We also learn more consciousness of ourselves by learning to register our status through breathing.

In synthesis, turning into a conscious speaker implies, among other things, the audacity, and the courage to walk a space of challenge and personal transformation. The challenge to reinvent and construct with others memorable experiences allow us to share ideas inspire souls and surprise restless minds. And as Maya Angelou once said: "I have learned that people will forget what you have said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget the way you made them feel.” There is where resides, the nucleus of a genuine Conscious Speaking".

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