Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Speaking of Focus

"Focus your eyes,
focus your ears,
focus your mind,
focus your body."

My seven year old son will say this on command, thanks to his karate training, and even better, will actually focus. Focus is important in the martial arts - you never want to be caught off-guard by a reverse tornado kick.

It's just as important to you as a speaker.

Focus Your Eyes - Don't let yourself be distracted by people walking in and out, by the lighting, by the waitstaff, by the giant screens on either side of you. Take inventory of your possible distractions before you walk on stage, address any you can control, then go out and keep your eyes on those you're conversing with - nothing breaks communication like wandering eyes.

Focus Your Ears - In addition to visual distractions, clanking dishes, conversations in the room, audience applause just on the other side of the partition, even blaring wedding reception music from down the hall can turn both the speaker's head and the heads of the audience. Some distractions need to be acknowledged, to refocus your audience. Others only you are keenly aware of, because your audience is focused on listening to YOU. You'll know which is which by focusing your ears, and eyes, on THEM.

Focus Your Mind - Not just on what you want to say, but on your mindset. Friend and fellow speaker Datta Groover believes "Whatever state of mind you are in when you present, people will tend to follow." If your mind is focused on how lousy breakfast was, or the fight you had last night with your spouse, it will be seen and heard in your performance. Sneakier mental machinations like fear of failure and lack of conviction are just as dangerous. Focus your mind on the moment and on the audience outcome - and leave everything else backstage.

Focus Your Body - I know what it's like to be betrayed by my body. I'm not the most balanced person in the world (yeah, I know what you're thinking - mentally OR physically, Rich), and occasionally find myself having to steady myself on stage. Focusing your body starts before you ever walk out to the microphone, however. Are you eating right? When are you eating? Are you physically energized or drained? Are you drinking enough water, and keeping water available to you when you speak? Have you scoped out the stage for weak spots, wires, and suddenly appearing orchestra pits? You need to focus your body both inside and out. Nothing's worse than needing a potty break in the middle of a keynote, except tripping over a power cord as you rush to the restroom.

Different speakers have different routines before presenting. Some eat the same meal or snack, some have a lucky blazer or tie, others listen to music, pray, or recite words reminding them of their purpose. Some of us do ALL of those things. Maybe Riker, my little green belt, has it simplified perfectly. Focus your eyes, focus your ears, focus your mind, focus your body. Then go kick butt...er - go Speak...& Deliver!

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