Do you ever get frustrated when, after taking a presentation skills course, you're not immediately much better at giving presentations? I mean, you've learned all those great new techniques...right?
I recently heard an interview on WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi Show that offers an explanation. According to Robert Maurer, Director of Behavioral Sciences at the UCLA Medical Center, in his book One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way, you need to break down the overall task you want to accomplish into very small steps. The smaller the step, the easier it is for the brain to learn new behavior.
THE KAIZEN WAY
The basis for this approach is kaizen, the ancient Asian philosophy of "achieving great and lasting success through small, steady steps." Maurer says that these small steps "disarm the brain's fear response." Since fear plays a role in all types of change, both positive and negative, disarming or negating the fear creates room to achieve desired results.
An associated technique Maurer endorses is mind sculpture (I've posted here about visualization) where you "visualize virtual change to effect real change." That is, you imagine, in as small detail as possible, what you want to have happen or how you want things to go. When the brain cells realize that something is important to you, because you've visualized it multiple times, they commit to it.
So what does this mean for presentations?
- Pick one thing to work on that will improve your presentation [such as focusing more on the audience].
- Break that thing down into very small steps [find out 3 issues that are important to this audience; write out 3 questions that you will pose to the audience during your presentation; write into your presentation notes 6 places where you will specifically make eye contact with the audience; videotape yourself to observe the frequency of your eye contact].
- Then visualize, in minute detail, doing these things and include in your visualization the audience responding warmly and being engaged in what you're saying.
Once you see improvement and experience increased comfort with this aspect of your presentation, pick another aspect and repeat.
The brain is a creature of habit. Once it gets in the practice of knowing what you're going to ask of it, it will gladly oblige.