You never know where good advice will come from!
On a recent flight to Chicago I was seated next to a woman who was also on her way to speak at a conference. When she found out that I teach presentation skills she shared that she used to be deathly afraid of public speaking. In fact, so much so that she asked a Buddhist monk for help. Although not the first source I’d think of in this area, it turned out to be the right solution for her.
The monk helped her overcome her paralyzing fear of presenting and now she actually looks forward to speaking to audiences all over the world. I wanted to share those 3 Buddhist principles with you as well as their application for your presentations:
3 Buddhist Principles for Fearless Presentations
Conviction, or having a strongly held believe that you’re doing something worthwhile, is a foundational principle in the Buddhist practice. The conviction that you’re working on something important, something noble even, helps Buddhists to practice challenging things like meditation, where results are rarely immediate.
As a presenter, believing strongly in the importance of delivering your message to others is also vital. And like practicing meditation, you must be willing to put in the time to develop your skills. Presenters with conviction continually strive to reach higher, as opposed to just going through the motions or continuing on auto-pilot.
But let’s face it, a few rejections or lukewarm responses to your presentations, demos or speeches can cause you to doubt yourself and your conviction to waver. Don’t despair. Even Buddhist monks have doubts. In such instances it’s helpful to focus on your noble cause. In other words, why is it important that your audience hears your message? If your “Why” is big enough, it can dwarf even the most persistent fears. Focusing more on the importance of helping your audience gives you less time to think about how you’re feeling. I call this being intentional, which is directly related to conviction.
Tie everything back to one idea.
Buddhism is based on the premise that everything is connected. Perhaps this is why the monk’s second principle was to tie everything back to one main idea. I’m a true believer in this as well. Most presenters try to pack too much into a presentation or speech. They throw out ideas right and left hoping something sticks. This has the often unintended effect of diluting your entire message.
To really make an impact on your audience, you need to decide what One Thing or idea you want your audience to walk away with. Once you identify your One Thing, that will help you determine what content you need to include – or exclude – in your presentation. Aligning your content with one main idea will make your case stronger, and also make it easier for your audience to remember and act upon your message.
Let go of the outcome.
I’ll admit, this principle sounds like heresy if you’re a salesperson. After all, a steady diet of messages like, “Don’t take No for an answer!” or “What do we need to do to close this sale?” seem to imply the ball is forever in your court.
According to the Buddha, all of our struggles and unhappiness come from attachment. No where is this more evident than when we attach our happiness or success to outcomes. The monk counseled my new friend that in any audience, some people will like your message, some people won’t, and others still will be indifferent. As the messenger, you can not control how people receive it.
Letting go of the outcome, or accepting what is, can take unreasonable pressure off of you and help you deliver more fearless presentations. But don’t be fooled into thinking that acceptance means you just “give it a shot” and hope for the best. On the contrary, it means doing everything in your power to make your presentation successful. This includes everything from understanding your audience, creating a compelling message, to delivering it in a clear, memorable way. But in the end you cannot control how your audience thinks or what they choose to do (or not do). You can, however, have a sense of peace regardless of the outcome knowing that you did the best you were capable of at the time, and that you’re on a path of continued improvement.
If the goal is noble, your commitment to the goal should not be contingent on your ability to attain it, and in pursuit of our goal, we must release our rigid assumptions about how we must achieve it. Peace and equanimity come from letting go of our attachment to the goal and the method. That is the essence of acceptance. ” – Dalai Lama