How To Incorporate Mindfulness Into Your Public Speaking

With increased mindfulness, you can take mistakes in stride, rather than taking them as a reflection of your inadequacies as a public speaker.

Photo: Ken Sterling, Chief Marketing Officer at BigSpeak Speakers’ bureau; Source: Courtesy Photo

Our CEO Jonathan is a huge believer in mindfulness. When he originally founded BigSpeak, we were named “Consciousness Unlimited,” and part of the company’s mission was to bring mindfulness to the world—specifically the working world.

This is still a big part of what we are involved in professionally and personally. But when we were founded in 1995, companies weren’t as interested in mindfulness as they are now—and typing out our lengthy website address was a hassle.

Today, we have meditation apps like Headspace and formal mindfulness courses becoming standard fare at workplaces across the country. Mindfulness has become a veritable craze for employees looking to channel their inner zen.

Essentially, mindfulness is a way of reprogramming your mind to think in healthier ways. Enlisting these techniques is beneficial in all aspects of life, from workplace efficiency to building stronger relationships—and it can also help you become a better public speaker.


A mindful approach

Simply put, mindfulness is the practice of remaining in the present moment. Oftentimes, mindfulness is facilitated through meditation, or the art of pausing. During meditation, you focus on your breathing and your body while tuning other external factors out.

Mindfulness helps eliminate the negative thought patterns that accompany public speaking, like vivid imaginings of worst-case scenarios and low self-esteem. When you practice meditation, you begin to take these for what they are: thoughts, not realities.

Through extensive meditative practice, you’ll be able to better disentangle yourself from the grip of once-crippling insecurities and fears.


The truth about mindfulness

If you’re still skeptical of the curative effects of mindfulness, consider the science behind it. A recent study, conducted at Brown University, revealed the concrete benefits of mindfulness techniques for public speakers.

During the course of the study, 52 subjects who had previously suffered from anxiety or depression were asked to deliver spontaneous speeches, and then had their stress levels measured.


Photo: © Monkey Business, YFS Magazine

Following the first trial, half of the participants underwent an eight-week mindfulness course. Then, all participants were required to give another spontaneous speech. The results were definitive: those who had participated in the mindfulness training registered significantly less anxiety.

Not convinced yet? Then let’s discuss how to incorporate mindfulness into your customary public speaking preparations.


Refresh your daily routine

The first step towards achieving mindfulness is simply incorporate it into your daily routine. Reserve five minutes each day for meditation, preferably first thing in the morning.

With three easy steps, you can embark on a daily meditation practice. First, sit with your spine straight and supported. Close your eyes and feel your breath as it travels through your body. Most importantly, when your mind wanders—and it will—bring your attention back to your breathing.


Photo: © janifest, YFS Magazine

By establishing a consistent meditation routine, you’ll eventually be able to separate your physical senses from your emotional responses, and see your nerves for what they are: a physiological reaction to the stress of public speaking.

Before you give your speech, reorient your attention in the same way you would while meditating. Instead of focusing on your anxiety, think about the audience. You’re not the most important part of your speech, after all—your message is.

What lessons of value can you impart to the audience? Focus on the people who have the most to gain from your speech, not on your insecurities.


Be kind to yourself

At the end of the day, your self-worth shouldn’t hinge on the execution of a single speech. It’s alright if you fumble on a word or pause for a moment as you regain your bearings.

Don’t translate small slip-ups into negative vitriol. With increased mindfulness, you can take mistakes in stride, rather than taking them as a reflection of your inadequacies as a speaker.

In other words, if mindfulness teaches you one thing, it should be this: be kind to yourself. It’s only a speech, after all.


This article has been edited.

Ken Sterling is the Chief Marketing Officer at BigSpeak Speakers’ bureau – the leading keynote and business speakers bureau in the world. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of California and an MBA from Babson College. Ken teaches Entrepreneurship, Marketing and Strategy at UC Santa Barbara. He is a serial entrepreneur, keynote speaker, business consultant and sales & marketing expert. Connect with @bigspeak on Twitter.


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