Your body, voice, gestures, and movement should all match and support your message- that's part of professional presentation.
It must be relatively difficult to present on mindfulness and meditation. Yet Andy Puddicombe's TED Talk on 10 Mindful Minutes a Day succeeded on many levels, not the least of which was making sure that his vocal and visual choices were supporting his message. Andy clearly doesn't subscribe to the old (mistaken) clichés about meditation- he's able to be enlightening, persuasive, funny, and engaging by making some great choices for this talk. Take 10 minutes (try and keep them mindful!) and watch the video below. Then join us for a few thoughts afterwards:
Some things that we loved:
1. Grabbing the audience's attention with a question: Andy is about to talk about mindfulness, and what does he get his audience to do right off the bat? Take a mindful moment and answer a question for themselves! And the question is a good one- when was the last time you did nothing? It grabs you from the start, and gets the minds of the room thinking along the lines of the topic at hand. A great way to engage your audience from the get go.
2. Strong, steady pace: In keeping with the theme of taking time to think, Andy is not afraid to take his time with what he's saying. He's a master at using pace for emphasis, as well. We could map some of the sentences where he pauses and slows down to really hit his message home: "When-was-the-last-time-you-did-nothing. [Pause]" at 0:33; "Simply. Doing. Nothing." at 0:51 "We're not here. For that long. Anyway." at 4:55 That pace and pause gives us time to truly absorb some of his most important thoughts.
3. Effective vocal choices show control and calm: Besides his excellent use of pace and pause, Andy makes use of more of his vocal ability. He exercises a nice, strong, consistent volume throughout, and his not afraid to color his story with lots of pitch variation. His tone is authoritative, but calming- perfect for what he’s talking about.
4. Physically matching the message: Andy talks about being present, in the here and now- and you can read that in his body! While he does take some little steps from time to time, there is a centeredness to his physicality. When he starts telling the story about the first meditation class he took, he exhibits his strongest physical position of the presentation- his body is in a nice relaxed neutral position with gestures engaged. Also, notice the still, steady eye contact- it is clear that this is some thing he’s worked on, and he’s practicing what he preaches!
(He tosses in an extra physicality bonus- when he's juggling, he shows us two very different body positions- one that says "stressed" and one that says "over-relaxed" around 6:30. Take a look at those positions- do you ever find your body dong that without noticing? The physical message you are sending with those stances will always override your content!)
5. The topic at hand: He makes a great case for building self-awareness and engaging in self-awareness activities, in this instance through meditation. Around 7:20, he talks a bit about the awareness and repetition of an anxious thought. Being able to recognize a feeling like that in yourself- that you’re feeling anxious about being anxious- is all part of increasing your self-awareness. How do you think that kind of mindfulness might influence your ability to build strong relationships?
And a few things to think about:
1. Props department: Andy does a great job of illustrating his message by doing a bit of impressive juggling. It supports what he's saying, and adds another dimension to the Personal Stamp he's already exhibited by getting some laughs (some times at the expense of himself!). He might want to think about picking up the juggling balls a bit later in his talk. If you're holding a prop for too long without using it, it starts to become a distraction- your audience will start to focus on why you are holding something for no reason. It's ok to build a bit of suspense and curiosity with a well-chosen prop like this one, but make sure it doesn't take the focus away from you.
2. Sound department: When presenting or performing with a body mic, there is nothing so annoying to the presenter (or the audience!) as a dangling wire. If you're going to be wired up for a presentation, make sure that any excess mic cord is placed inside your shirt or shirt collar. (It's very easy to run a mic pack and cord underneath a shirt or jacket, especially if you are wearing a pack on your belt or in your pocket. And a TINY piece of clear medical tape, placed over the wire and slightly in front of your ear can help keep the element itself from flying away from your face- good sound all around!
We really enjoyed Andy's talk and the idea of 10 Mindful Minutes. What did you think? Sound off below. Our thanks to Andy and to TED for sharing the video!