Have you ever finished a speech or presentation and realized you couldn’t really remember what happened? You know you got through it, but in retrospect the whole thing seemed like a blur. Or have you walked away from the podium needing, hoping someone will tell you did a good job? It’s not a very good feeling is it?
Here’s a strategy that will help you avoid those post-presentations blues and walk away from your performance feeling clear, strong, and in charge of your process. It’s called “choosing your task.” If you’re like many speakers, you probably approach the front of the room with no clear technique. Sure, you’ve got a vague mental checklist of 50 things you need to do right; stand up straight, project your voice, make eye contact, gesture. It’s more than any human being can keep track of, but you’ve got your fingers crossed, hoping for the best.
You need to choose a task. Before speaking, spend time considering this question, what is one thing I could do in my delivery that would make this presentation better than the one before? You might decide, “My task is to feel both feet on the ground,” or, “My task is to pause and breathe deeply after every sentence.” Your task might be to engage your whole voice or make a personal connection with three listeners. There are dozens, hundreds of things you could identify as your personal task. It could be anything as long as it’s specific, actionable, realistic, and relevant for you.
Focusing on a particular task keeps you present. You’re less likely to get lost in your thoughts or swept away by the energy of the performance, so when you finish, you’ll actually remember what happened. You’ll have a clearer sense of how it turned out because choosing your task has a way of keeping you anchored in the moment.
The personal task keeps you objective. Without a task you have no specific sense of your own performance, so you become more reliant on others for feedback and they may or may not know what they’re talking about. When you focus on one task, you’re able to evaluate yourself with more clarity. It’s an easy matter to ask yourself, “How did I do with my task?” Then you put yourself in charge of your own assessment and believe me that feels a whole lot better than hoping someone else would tell you that you did a good job.
Choosing your task keeps you realistic. If you’ve been giving mediocre presentations and you approach the next one hoping it will be great, you’re setting yourself up for failure. That’s not the way improvement happens. Improvement is incremental. By choosing a specific task, one that’s within your reach, you set yourself up for success. It feels good to walk away from a speech knowing it was better than the one before.
Finally, the personal task keeps you improving. If your strategy is to cross your fingers and hope you give a great speech, you could be wandering around in the dark for a very long time, but if you practice one specific skill every time you get up to speed, I guarantee you will get better. It’s just a matter of time and experience. So always take a few minutes to choose your task. It will make a noticeable difference in your performance.
To learn more about improving your communication skills, click the link below and download the free booklet and video series The Sound of Success.