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Connective Presence - Three Steps to Being at Home in Front of Groups
by Sandra Zimmer
Not everyone has severe stage fright or fear of public speaking. Many people tell me the first few minutes of a talk or speech are filled with tension and anxiety. But, they say that once they get past the first five or ten minutes, they feel OK. When I ask them to evaluate what happens in the first few minutes, they realize that it is making genuine connection with listeners that allows them to relax and share their ideas.
For years I struggled with stage fright and fear of public speaking. My struggles led me to develop ways to manage my tension and eventually to create a method that transforms the tension of stage fright. One of the greatest things I have learned is how to consciously generate connective presence before I start to talk. As a result, I now feel at home and comfortable from the very first minute of a talk. There is no waiting to get comfortable or hoping to get relaxed since I have learned to be present with audiences. There is just a stepping into being with my audience from the first moment. All my efforts can then be put into building deeper and deeper rapport with listeners and on sharing myself fully with them.
Here is how you can create connective presence at your next opportunity to speak up or to speak in front of a group. The following steps will help you to manage your tension, intention and attention so that comfortable connection is a natural outcome of your presence.
First, get yourself into a state of presence by focusing your awareness on being in your body. Simply place your attention in each part of your body, one part at a time. Start by focusing your attention inside your head for 5 or 10 seconds. Be aware of being in your head. Then focus in your neck, then your chest, etc, working your attention all the way down to your feet. You will notice that energy flows where ever you put your attention. By the time you get to your feet, you will be grounded in your body, feeling connected to yourself, filled with energy and present to the moment.
Next, set your intention to care about your listeners. Decide to love them rather than worrying about whether they will like you or not. Decide to be there for them to share your ideas, insights, expertise and talents.
Finally, open yourself to receiving their attention. As you step into the center of attention, be intentional about taking in their attention as support. You will literally sense their energy coming towards you. When you can take their energy in, there is no need to defend, protect or deflect their attention. It simply comes into you, filling you up with a bodily-felt sense of support. You are now in a state of connective presence, being with your listeners and ready to share your ideas.
Managing tension is about consciously focusing human energy through intention and attention. It is what athletes do to get into the ideal performance state so they can play their best game. If athletes can learn this skill, then so can you. Try it and report back to me. If you need some help with grounding in your body, try my Grounding Meditation to support the process of developing your own connective presence.
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