Being prepared is the top priority when it comes to pitching or performing any kind of presentation. The list needs to be checked.
Who is the client or audience, and what is the message? What materials are needed, and in what order do they need to be presented? Content is perhaps the part we spend most time and energy on when preparing.
What about when all content is aligned, yet the presenter is not? The presentation does not exist without someone to deliver it.
It is important during preparation, to prepare oneself as well. Sometimes what is forgotten is personal movement preparation. In other words, how one uses themselves in movement and, as a result, how they speak.
The way a someone carries themselves and their ideas forward often makes a significant difference in how their work is received. The way they move may send another message than their words. Tension or nervousness can become the focus.
When this happens, it might not matter how good the product, service or idea is. It fails on personal delivery.
There is plenty of advice on body language 'dos' and 'don'ts' while presenting, including lists on how to avoid failure as a result of incorrect body language.
These kinds of lists can be helpful. However, they also perpetuate ideas and beliefs that lead to static thinking and uncoordinated movement. Body language is, in fact, a whole, psychophysical language.
If a person is under the impression that they need to find a posture position that is neutral rather than hunched over then they are most likely going to move from one stuck place to another. Attempting to hold any position requires unnecessary muscle tension.
Our posture is the shape we hold most of the time as we attempt to be in a position. This is the main reason we get uncomfortable standing or sitting for extended times. It is not a sustainable way to think about ourselves.
At the time of discovering his technique, FM Alexander was an actor and reciter and had developed hoarseness to the point of losing his voice. Doctors could not help him, so he concluded it must be something he did to himself that caused the problem.
He experimented in front of a mirror. He attempted to move his body around to try to solve his problem by posturing himself in different ways.
He eventually found that by coordinating the head and spine relationship first, everything else would align. It created a non-posturing relationship between all the parts, which no longer required a muscular ‘holding’ of anything. Instead, it invited dynamic movement through his system.
Suggestions to limit oneself from certain movements or gestures is not the ultimate answer. Similar to posturing, it may create unnecessary tension. Movement, gesture, and behaviour are a lot more nuanced in real life.
Joe Navarro, author and 25-year veteran of the FBI explains - “When we study nonverbal behaviour we have to consider context, the environment, and all the behaviours we see, not just one. That means reading all of the body, from head to toe.”
In his article about the myths of body language, he exposes the misconception about arm-crossing, which is largely seen as a negative gesture. Supposedly, it blocks people out.
It is actually more commonly used as a comforting self-hug. People tend to do this while waiting or listening to someone speaking. If the rest of the person is open and relaxed, it might not send a negative message at all. It will be interpreted as part of a whole.
Other things also come into play, like timing, length, speed or repetition of a gesture that will cause one interpretation above any others. It is about how one makes the gesture, as opposed to which gesture one does.
It all comes back to the whole. Focusing on limb gesture alone is often counterproductive. If there are interferences or tensions in the underlying coordination already, changing the gesture could look contrived and tense. The quality of gestures come as a result of how one supports themselves through their structure.
Coordinating the whole system begins with supporting the movement through the spine. When supported well, open and inviting language comes as an expression of natural coordination from the core and out through the limbs.
Clearing anything that is an obstacle paves the way for clear expression. Obstacles can be old patterns of belief that need an update. Or, a more temporary reaction to the stress of performing. Either way, one should first look at the whole in order to change the overall quality. Then, if needed, they can look at how the parts respond.
When our limbs are free to express more organic or authentic movement the gestures automatically become more appropriate in bringing clarity and emphasis to what we want to communicate.
The tailored route
A generalised, one-size-fits-all list of what to think about most likely will not do. Instead, basing changes on a person's individual needs and goals sets the person up for personal success.
Returning to the authentic movement of self in the most efficient way begins with where each person is right now. Doing a whole self-preparation, born out of current coordination and with tailored feedback, is key. It can be achieved alone, but asking an expert, or a friend with a keen eye to be part of your preparation is invaluable.
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