What the body has to do with being an engaging, confident speaker and 3 tips to help you get reacquainted!
In Part 1 of this article I shared a Youtube video on why our body is important for confident, successful speaking. In part 2, I explore the topic further, and share three tips which will enable you to become a more confident and engaging speaker.
1. We speak in our body
…OK this can seem really obvious, but it’s really important to think about this one. We often think about the voice being in our throat area or mouth, but pay less attention to the fact that we use our whole body in order to speak. At most, we may hone in on breathing, having heard that it’s important to take deep breaths for good speaking, but that is often the height of it. And missing the body, means that you’re missing a vital tool for engaging and confident speaking.
In order to speak successfully we need to have a free and flexible body. What does this mean? Well it includes things like having shoulders which are relaxed and not scrunched up, a jaw which is flexible and not tight, legs which support you but are not fixed, a posture which is open and confident, while not rigidly adhering to ‘head up, shoulders back’ which we often perceive as ‘good posture.’
Another key factor is space…not the intergalactic kind! To speak in an engaging and effective manner we want space… space inside our body for our voice to resonate well, space inside our throat, mouth and nose, so that our voice sounds engaging, space inside our head for clarity, as well as a sense of space around us, the area that we want our voice to fill.
2.Our body reacts to fear
This is probably the biggest motivator for why we need to connect with our body when we want to come across as a confident speaker. Fear is our body’s reaction to a perceived threat, so we see a lion, we get palpitations, sweat, and get ready to run- fight or flight, or we may freeze, stuck to the spot. Stand in front a podium, and the same physical reactions are not that dissimilar! So, we’re hard wired to keep ourselves safe, and even though to our rational brain, the fear of a speaking situation, be it public speaking, or dealing with a conflict situation, may seem highly irrational, the fact is, that our body doesn’t agree. So, while we may try to either talk ourselves out of this ‘irrational’ thinking, or ignore the nervous feelings, (and/or the stressful event until the last minute!), we are likely to be on a losing battle! Essentially we’re fighting against a wave which is much more powerful that we are.
Another thing that happens, is that as we get more stressed we move further into our head, and if these thoughts are left unchecked, we become more disconnected from our body. This tends to maintain a negative cycle including features such as anxiety, panic, dread, over thinking and self-criticism.
So, what to do? Here are three tips to get you more connected to your body in under a few minutes each day. If you practice these regularly, you’ll find that become more body aware, and this in turn will enable you to be a more confident and engaging speaker. So here we go!
1. Get more grounded
The simple act of standing up and noticing our connection with the ground is very powerful. While you can do this wearing shoes, it can be particularly useful to do this exercise without shoes on, so that you’re really noticing the contact of your feet with the ground. When we’re stressed we move upwards into our head, so moving downwards, brings us back down to earth…literally! It can be very powerful how settling this is. The very act of choosing to become more grounded means that we stop what we’re doing, and that that is vital if we want to speak with power.
2. Do a body scan
A body scan is simply taking a 10-20 seconds or up to a minute or two, to scan down along your body from the top of your head down to your feet. It’s a chance to stop, become more present in yourself and be a curious observer of your body. I know that for me, when I do a body scan, I often notice tightness in my body which I hadn’t been aware of before. By regularly taking time to scan through your body, then you can get more tuned in to what is happening, and be able to speak from a place of presence. It’s useful to practice body scans when you’re in a relaxed environment, so that you can use them when you’re faced with a scary speaking situation where you desperately want to be confident.
If you’d like help with doing a body scan, then you can access an audio recording on Day 1 of my Speak with confidence e-course which is currently available for free.Find out more
3. Do mindful movement and stretching.
We can be great at doing lots of exercise but not necessarily be that aware of what we’re doing. Taking time to do simple stretches slowly and mindfully gets us more connected to our body. This could be as simple as scrunching up your shoulders, holding the tension, and then releasing, but being really aware as you are doing it. I particularly like many of the exercises used by Daniela Razocher of Bodies at Work , which can be accessed here.
Be curious, don’t judge
With each of these three tips to help you get more connected to your body, the key thing is to be curious about what you notice, and not judge. It’s very easy to take a dislike to feelings within the body, such as pain or tightness, but ironically it’s by getting to know them that they hold less power over you when you stand up to speak. So, be brave, and take a body aware step towards speaking with confidence today!
I hope that you found this article useful. Do share any comments you have, and let me know how you got on with the exercises.