Hot Public Speaking
Eleven years ago I did something for the first time. I now do it twice a week. Three times, ideally. It means I can concentrate more easily and for longer periods. In the mornings, I wake up from a solid sleep and feel as cozy as a basket of kittens.
My body “fits” better. It’s more at ease and stronger and whilst it feels pushed and stretched, it’s calmer and more rested.
This wasn’t always the case.
“You should have a nice choking sensation in your throat when you do this” I was told.
Ten minutes could feel like a weekend of standing on one leg in a tropical jungle. But rather than a thousand insects, I’d be trying to swat away a thousand thoughts.
My head would teem. We’re out of bananas. Still need to get to the post office to collect that package. Memories from being 4 would skid into my brain and hit play on a long buried experience.
I learned that my eye lids could sweat and that standing very, very still could get me out of breath.
Welcome to hot yoga.
Each hot yoga session is different, some are more mentally challenging and some are more physically tough.
Just like public speaking.
Yoga is full of balancing postures. They give you strength and agility.
Balance is also hugely important in public speaking. It gives your talk strength and agility.
With slide content, less is more. Don’t put 4 graphs on the screen at the same time. Your audience won’t have enough time to read and process them. Add the fact that you’re talking and you’ve swamped folk with 5 choices: read one of those busy graphs or listen to you.
Given that you’re talking to a group, I reckon you want more than a 20% chance of them listening?
Once you’ve planned your talk, look it over as a whole. What’s the flow like? Make sure there’s a mix.
Do you have dense slides and paragraphs crammed with text? Simplify and edit, edit, edit.
Break it up. Cartoons make people laugh, photos and pictures engage us, and abstract images pose puzzles and make us think.
When I was wee in Scotland, I had toy Weebles. I still remember the jingle in the advert – “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.” As a novice at hot yoga, I was a bit of a Weeble. Practice has meant I’m more comfortable and solid on my feet.
And practising public speaking will also make you more comfortable and solid on your feet.
You can start your practice low key.
Dogs are great audiences to practice with. Certain cats, too. I once house sat two cats, once of which I swear understood me when I was telling her about my day. I know this because she sat still and then turned her head thoughtfully at a jaunty angle.
People that you love and trust are even better. They won’t bark or say things that destroy your soul. Just in case, do make sure they’re aware of constructive criticism before they launch off in your living room.
That done, be warned that their feedback might bruise a little. This is normal.
Some yoga positions seem easy. Just a couple of simple twists. A yoga instructor makes the hold look elegant and natural. Then you try it. You have the finesse of a hippo in high heels.
This can also happen with your public speaking. That bit in the middle, the one you think you’re really comfortable with? That’ll be the section your loved one has no clue what you’re going on about. You may feel all pulled together and poised but she sees the hippo in stilettos.
This will shake you but it’s a great opportunity. It lets you explore what and how your public speaking is confusing, if it’s truly awful-remove-this-section-now, or, and this one’s very common, has big, fancy words that mean something to experts but nothing to lay people.
Just keep it simple.
If you’re going to be talking to lay people, believe me, you want to hear this feedback now and not after the event when people are filling in their evaluation forms.
With practice, you can polish your public speaking, so that your message shines.
And just like hot yoga, you’ll be able to master new postures and techniques and you’ll have greater focus on delivering your message.