The other day I was weeding my garden, which does not happen that often, but the sun was shining and the mood took me. Whilst I was doing this I was pondering on what is a weed? It is said that a weed is simply something we don’t want – they may have beautiful flowers on but we make the decision we don’t want them as we would prefer something else to be in their place.
With a fistful of weeds which went into the compost bin, I was reflecting on what we can weed out of our presentations before we, metaphorically speaking, plant the good stuff.
The most obvious one is verbal fillers, the ers and ums and whist these are not wrong or bad if there is a lot of them, just like weeds, they could become distracting and take over the good stuff. So to weed these out you can get someone you trust, a friend or respected colleague to make a note of how many you are using, in say a two or three minute talk and whether it was off putting. If it was distracting then you can practice a few times to reduce the amount. One way to do this is to say your talk again and remember the word pause in your head. Ers and ums are used to fill the space but if we say pause to ourselves we can train ourselves to do exactly that. So, in this instance, the pause replaces the um or er and when we get used to pauses there is much less of a need to use verbal fillers.
Another one is distracting body language, whether that’s fiddling with our hair, a pen or rocking back and forth. Sometimes we do not know we are doing it and the only way to know for sure is to have ourselves filmed. Once we get over do I really look like that?! (or something similar) video can be a useful learning tool. If you do have something which is a bit distracting then anything to help relax you will be good, as it is usually caused by nerves and an excess of adrenaline in the body. This is totally understandable and there is one thing which can provide immediate help and that is breathing from your belly (as opposed to higher up in your chest).
The last one is not so much a weed but rather an overgrowth of a certain flower or shrub (to continue the metaphor!) I think many of us are in the habit of cramming a lot into a talk or presentation because of the belief that we want to give value or we need to prove that we are the expert. However, less is often more – just like in any well designed garden there is space for everything to breathe, so there is space for your audience to think and assimilate your thoughts.
So I hope you enjoy weeding your gardens as well as talk and presentations. I would love to know how you get on!