“When I’m dancing, that’s what I’m doing.” – Merce Cunningham
How perfect! I recently was exposed to the philosophy and technique of modern dance master Merce Cunningham, and this quote of his grabbed my attention. The suggestion that everything else fades into the background and that he’s immersed and fully present in what he’s doing is instructive for all of us …
Being present when you’re communicating actually involves you and another party – the audience, of course. Being present as a speaker means being willing to “listen dynamically,” with all five senses, to your audience so you can respond, adapt, be relevant, and stay in the moment. And ultimately connect. It means clearing your head of all other noise, including your own ego, in order to be there for and with them.
Rather than thinking about your exact words, all the specific material you want to cover, whether you’re forgetting something, and whether or not you’re going to actually survive (ha, I caught you!), envision being engaged and being present with a person or a group of people. Envision yourself with them; talking to them, maybe even literally talking with them, but definitely not at them. Envision yourself seeing them, sensing their level of receptiveness … without allowing it to be personal and about you (caught you again!). And if that doesn’t help, then at least envision yourself being present enough that you’re open to changing tacks if necessary – e.g. inviting Q&A earlier than planned, turning off the PowerPoint and telling a story, breaking up your talk and asking the audience to reflect back to you what they’re hearing and understanding.
So that when you’re communicating to people – which is, by definition, a two-way street – that’s what you’re doing. And then let everything else fade away …
Communications Coach at SmartMouth Communications
SmartMouth Founder and Principal Beth Noymer Levine is a Communications Coach who is emerging as one of the country’s leading voices on how to prepare and deliver speeches and presentations that actually work for both the audience and the speaker.