This is the third of a three part series. In the first post in this series on delivering effective presentations, I examined why you have to put your audience before your ego’s concerns. In the second post, I examined why scripting your presentation is a terrible idea.
Scripting is a sign that you do not trust your Self or your audience. By definition, you have separated yourself from both. No matter how many times you practice your presentation, separating yourself from the audience is a fearful place in which to be. In this final part of my series, I examine the issue of separation.
As long as you believe you are separate from your audience, you will not be fully responsive to what the moment asks of you. Once you understand the illusion of separateness, you will be able to connect with your audience on the deepest possible level. This connection is forged when you are prepared to speak in an authentic and genuine way.
The approach that I will explain does not depend on positive thinking—such as thinking that your audience wants you to do well. Although this is usually true, it is not always the case for everyone sitting in the room. In any case, positive thinking will only partially mask, but not remove, your fear.
The approach that I am suggesting does not depend upon convincing yourself that the audience is no better, or even worse, than you. This premise seems to be what is behind the poor advice that you should “picture your audience naked.”
The more profound way to remove fear and to relax is to forge a deep relationship with your audience. Grady Jim Robinson put it this way: “A speaker does not walk to a microphone and give a speech. The speaker ignites an event within a context of relationships.”
There is literally nothing to fear; what we fear is in our minds. Can a wave be frightened of the ocean? Can a leaf be frightened of the tree? These are absurd questions. But once we understand that the essential nature of human beings is that they too are part of a whole, than it is equally absurd to ask the question, “Can a speaker be frightened of his audience?”
Physicist David Bohm calls this whole, with which we are all connected, the “implicate order” where “everything is enfolded into everything.” Bohm’s work has very practical implications. Although our physical senses tell us that we are separate bodies and separate minds, on a deeper level, our physical reality is fundamentally illusory. We are connected to all of life and not separate from it.
Each wave is fundamentally connected to the ocean. It is made of the same substance and it is not separate from it. If the wave had consciousness and saw itself as separate, from our vantage point, we would laugh at the wave.
Albert Einstein observed that our belief in separateness creates an illusory prison from which we must free ourselves:
A human being is part of the whole, called by us ‘universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affections for few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison.
Human beings have the gift of consciousness. We sometimes don’t use it wisely. We walk into the room to give our presentation and we notice the individual who is slumped in his chair in boredom. We can choose to feel separated and annoyed, or we can choose to laugh at our thinking and drop it.
How about the person in the audience who is talking to his neighbor? How about the hostile questioner? These too are opportunities to feel separate or opportunities to recognize our illusion. In front of us, our audience is a slice of humanity. They have gifts and foibles not unlike our own. We are just seeing ourselves reflected in their faces. Once you understand this, a big inward smile will wash over you, and tension will vanish.
It has been said that a great speaker could read the phone book to an audience and be successful. What is meant by this is that there exists in the speaker a connection to the whole that is so vibrant and strong that their mere presence helps others make the same connection. It is this profound connection to their audience that is the real secret of their success.
All human beings are yearning to remember that Wholeness is reality and separateness is an illusion. When you remember that you are not separate, you help your audience remember, and you connect with them on the deepest possible level.
There is no need to strain, there is no need to impress, and there is no need to resist anything in the moment. You are just meeting yourself. When you remember this truth, you are allowing the audience to participate with you on the deepest level. Your audience will reciprocate. They will connect with you, with your authenticity, and with your message.