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As soon as your mind wanders in public speaking, the common response is to place extra pressure and extra thoughts into your mind that say, “Gosh you’ve not only forgotten your lines but you’re an idiot for forgetting your lines. Get focused dummy!” This lack of focus can cause a spiral of panicked negativity which stops you from being relaxed and makes you less likely to recover and find your words.
Our ability to focus in public speaking is directly related to what Buddhists call 'one-pointedness' - a state of complete concentration where you are completely on-task, or in-the-moment. How can we achieve this one-pointedness given all the distractions life so lovingly places before us?
Being a mulit-tasker (or many-pointed) SOUNDS efficient and professional (see any generic resume for reference), but does it really work? More importantly, there's SO much to consider in public speaking (for goodness sake I have to memorize my speech/present slides/make them laugh/stop the mean audience member from throwing tomatoes) how can I just focus on sharing my message?
What effect does being many-pointed have on me? Although I think I love multi-tasking, when I consider how many-pointedness really makes me feel, it's words like
It brings the discomforting feeling that I'm not really living up to my best, which only brings more confusion and panic.
Should I take that moment of confusion and panic and myself into a one-pointed mindset, how does that feel?
There's a beautiful simplicity and balance that we instinctively know comes with us finding focus.
Let's go deeper into the mind-set of one-pointed focus. If you were Mrs One-Pointed herself, what sort of language would run through your head?
For me, it's the following;
Buddhism has skillful and long-term methods for training the mind to become focused on a single point. Whilst not attempting to better those fine teachings, I devised a three step process for upping one-pointedness in every day life and especially in public speaking;
Your first step in becoming one-pointed is in picking one thing to do at a time. It's like picking one cake to eat at a time, rather than shoving in the chocolate eclair with the apple tart, with a chicken sandwich. It seems obvious, but we so often fail to take this crucial step. The important thing here is that you make a conscious choice- rather than getting blown this way or that by emails, twitter, text messages and so on. If you're set to speak... then SPEAK, with focus and purpose. Instead of thinking of how the audience is judging you or what your boss thinks of your presentation or if your skirt is hiking up in the back and needs readjusted. Choose to be fully in your presentation.
To get here you may have to spend time considering, planning, researching and analysing without the 'assistance' of your inbox. To stay here, you must also make the firm choice to honour your choice, even if other more attractive offers (read: a better cake) come along whilst you're still chewing.
Many people love the planning bit, but then fail on action. An effective "DO" stage is where the one-pointedness happens. It's all about noticing any distracting thoughts, acknowledging them rather than repressing or ignoring them and then letting them pass without influencing you. Expect to be pulled off-task - it will happen. But with every sense and thought, patiently and continually refocus yourself back to what you chose to do and say.
To help your focus in public speaking, think of yourself as a storyteller who’s going from one party of a story to the next. If you live the story as you tell it, you will be much less likely to drift from it – because it’s something you’ve experienced. We can only forget what we’ve ‘learned’! You never forget how you met your partner, or the first time you went to India (or whatever). Focus is at it's best when you speak from within your experience.
Everyone has a limit to their attention span (for adults we focus at our maximum for around 20 minutes), so having an end to your task will ensure that you can set yourself up to succeed. The finish is the bit where you can say to yourself "That's it, completed, finished, end of story" before starting on something else.
When you're attempting to increase your focus in public speaking make sure you end with a bang or residual message. A well-done “closing” will have your audience automatically clapping BEFORE you utter “Thank-you for coming, are there any questions?”
It's important to congratulate yourself when you get here, no matter how small your speech, as it motivates your subconscious mind to focus again next time you take on a choice. After finishing and congratulating yourself, only now do you critique the process you went through to get there to improve it for next time. This is critical so that that self-doubt doesn't derail your choice during the DO stage.
More information on how to become a more focused, confident public speaker? You betcha! If you're eager to become a more power filled speaker and with tons more focus, Ginger has a multitude of courses just right for you! From freebies to e-courses, books to workshops, jump in to Ginger. Click here for a full list of Ginger courses and resources.
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