Leaders must present with a prepared brain

We all know that we will be called to present to our team, someone else's team, a client or even speak at someone's funeral/wedding/birthday. It's a fact.

No matter what the situation is, a leader must be prepared - when skilled at presenting the right chemicals come into play and the audience benefits.

The third in a series of Blogs about Presentation skills the focus today is controlling  nerves and stress with the help of your brain.

Whilst I'm not skilled in neuroscience I've experienced the feelings and emotions associated with a well prepared  presentation and an ill-prepared presentation. We all know what it feels like to have those butterflies punching our belly and the experience when they fly in formation. And, who's had that sinking feeling when you've prepared a PPT to drive your presentation and find that the projector isn't working!

I'm a big fan of John Medina, his book, Brain Rules tells us many simple practises which help us survive and thrive. I've since adapted these into presenting skills training. For example from the simple 'for the brain to function it needs to exercise - you and your audience must move every 10 minutes! And to the more challenging approach to filter information to the short term memory receptivity and for the long term memory a gradual drip feed approach. 

He also introduced the understanding of the power of chemicals which I've since explored further.

The body releases a range of chemicals: many of which I believe you can control!

Endorphins mask pain and it's that 'feeling high' when everything is working well in your presentation - especially if you haven't slept a wink getting it right. Similarly, Dopamine makes us feel good when you see your audience engaged with what you're saying and they proactively give you a visual High Five! 

Serotonin often cited as the leadership chemical is produced in that team meeting when you've got everyone on board by making them feel valued and important - there's no ego involved here. Oxytocin is spread when trust is built through your gestures - for example touching someone when thanking them for asking a question.

Cortisol kicks in if we feel stressed - unable to handle a difficult audience member, don't know the answer to a person's question and generally when we're ill-prepared and don't know how to handle these people.

There are many ways to control our fears and nerves which activate these chemicals: be prepared (I've told you that!), breath, visualise, pause, drink water, move and stop thinking about yourself and think of serving the audience.

Are you presenting today?