Man holding his hand out

Every presentation is a conversation and every conversation is an opportunity to be kind; kind to ourselves and kind to those we are speaking with. Can you imagine the impact we would have on ourselves and our audience if we set kindness as our core intention?

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” ― Lao Tzu

It starts with you

As a presenter or public speaker we all have an inner critic. It’s that voice in our head that disregards our intellect, expertise, how hard we’ve worked and how much we care. It’s unhelpful and it’s only purpose is to sabotage our presentation. I wrote about this issue in a previous article called ‘The presenters inner critic – how to train that too in 3 steps’.

Setting an intention of kindness and a commitment to yourself be gentle and compassionate will position you to craft and deliver a presentation both you and your audience will enjoy.

Where do you start?

  1. Remember who you are?

The moment you are called upon to give a presentation rather than entertain a spiral of negative thinking take a breath and remember how far you’ve come. Take a few moments to reflect on everything you’ve achieved so far. Without even knowing you, I can be certain that if you’re in the privileged position to present to fellow human beings you have already come a very long way.

Cast your awareness over the journey you have taken to get to where you are and all of the challenges, obstacles and anxieties you’ve overcome.

Focus on what you’re proud of and why you are where you are today rather than being unkind to yourself.

“How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.” William Shakespeare

  1. Watch your language

‘What if I forget what to say and freeze?’

‘They probably know far more than me’

‘What if they ask me a question I don’t know the answer to?’

That’s not the place to start!

Science has been telling us for some considerable time that people who keep telling themselves they can do something or that they could improve generally achieve the best results. A recent article referring to this as a motivational trick explains this much further.

Changing your role from being your own personal critic to champion in terms of the way you speak to yourself will serve you extremely well. A previous article I wrote called ‘Never be nervous speaking again – tips for anxious presenters’ explains how you can overcome the negative self-talk.

“If you hear a voice within you saying, you are not a painter, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced” Vincent van Gogh

  1. Show yourself some mercy

Imagine that someone you really cared about came to you to share their fears and anxieties about a forthcoming presentation. Consider three questions:

– What would you say to them to be kind and supportive?

– How would you reassure them and restore their confidence?

– How would you make them feel good about themselves?

Now trying doing exactly that for yourself.

“Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” Louise L. Hay

  1. Change the way you look at things

If you see your presentation as an inconvenience, distraction or something beyond your ability, you are being unkind to yourself and your audience.

If you see your audience as predators and yourself as prey, your insensitivity will be the source of great anxiety to you.

If you convince yourself that your audience know far more than you, then you are being cruel to yourself before you utter a word.

Be kind to yourself by seeing your presentation as an opportunity to make a tangible difference to the personal lives of your audience and everything will change.

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Wayne Dyer

  1. Stop trying to be perfect

Trying to give precise and equal eye contact to every member of your audience, to pause an exact number of times and speak and move like a Hollywood actor is a recipe for disaster.

If you believe that your audience wants to see a slick, impeccably rehearsed and polished speaker you are being unkind to yourself.

That’s not what your audience wants.

They want to listen to someone who is credible, clear and committed to helping them. They want to hear someone speak who cares far more about them than they do themselves. They want to see someone who is real, open and vulnerable.

The more perfect you try to make yourself and your presentation, the less likely it is your audience will take you seriously. Be honest, empathetic and authentic instead of trying to be perfect.

“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.” Leo Tolstoy

  1. Be kind to your audience

– Make sure that everything you say to them is relevant, personal to them and of value.

– Smile and help them to smile

– Make your presentation entirely about them, not yourself.

– Help them to relax.

– Get to know them before you speak to them.

– Keep it short, simple and clear.

– Don’t tell them what they already know and never waste their time.

  1. Play nicely

Perhaps it was just me but when I was a child I remember my mother making a point of giving me a clear instruction each time I left the house; ‘play nicely’ she said. I tried very hard with varying levels of success to do as I was told.

As I grew older I realised that there was one significant hurdle which stood in the way of me playing nicely; it was my ego.

If I ever left my house with the intent of putting myself first, winning at the expense of others or being uncompassionate in any way I’d be certain to let myself and my mother down.

Today as a professional who is passionate about helping people to find, value and express their true voice, the first thing I encourage speakers to do is to ‘play nicely’.

It’s really hard being kind to yourself or your audience if you’re presenting purely from your ego, so leave that at your desk and carry a little humility with you instead.

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Plato

  1. Whatever happens, don’t forget to breathe

Breathing is not only the most effective key to public speaking, it’s the kindest gift you can give to yourself and your audience.

Taking a few deep breaths when we are stressed, anxious, uncertain or in pain is something we’ve all been told countless times since we were small children; yet how many of us actually do it?

Deep breathing before your stand to speak changes everything physiologically, mentally and emotionally and is of enormous value to you and your audience. The moment you stand to speak with your audience stand tall, straight, smile and breathe. Minutes before you even stand to speak make sure you take a few long, slow and deep breaths too.

“Fear is excitement without breath.” Robert Heller

Presenting and public speaking aside give yourself the gift of 10 minutes to watch this powerful TED talk on the subject of kindness. If you have children be sure to let them watch it too.


Image courtesy of: Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash

Read more: Public Speaking: The Importance of Listening