Getting in the Zone for Public Speaking and Communicating in Groups


Almost everyone has heard the term being in the zone. Athletes of all kinds use this term along with the phrase Ideal Performance State, coined by Dr. James E. Loehr of the Human Performance Institute.  Within the fields of presentation skills, public speaking and artistic performance, the zone is called presence or being present in the moment.  I also often call it the flow state. This state of presence is hard to define. We don’t have language to adequately describe the experience of presence, but some of the qualities of presence are as follows: 

  • A sense of timelessness as if you have plenty of time to perceive, think and respond
  • A sense of ease and flow when everything is going just right
  • A sense of strength and confidence as if you are in control of yourself and your expression
  • A sense of focus with total concentration on the present time activity
  • A sense of size and expansion of awareness so you feel free to express fully

 Athletes and actors have long sought to create the state of presence consciously so they can be excellent at what they do.  Their training, focused attention and physicality combine to make it easier to get into this much-desired state.  Speakers, business communicators and leaders are not traditionally trained like athletes and actors to warm-up their physical bodies and focus attention in the now moment. But, they can be taught to do so in the same way actors learn to develop stage presence and athletes learn to be fully focused in their game. Because I was trained as an actor, I have brought that same kind of physical preparation and mental focus to my presentation skills training for professionals. Getting into a state of presence for speaking in groups requires three steps to activate energy awareness.

  1. Increase your psycho-physical energy through movement and breathing exercises so your body is energized and excited.
  2. Ground the energy in your body so you have the full-bodied sense of awareness that facilitates being in present time.
  3. Open to receive the flow of attention from your audience so you connect fully with audience members and listen to them with your eyes.

 These steps create the experience of presence.  They cause people to drop into a state of presence that allows them to be more available to audiences than in their normal state of awareness. This zone state is grounded in the reality of the moment, devoid of anxiety, and makes it easy for a presenter to be real with the audience.   Yesterday I completed two days of presentation skills training for young designers and programmers at FKP Architects in Houston. Guiding them through these steps freed them to be comfortable in their skin in front of the group, to express themselves authentically and to share their expertise freely as they stood at the center of attention of the group of peers.  The resulting qualities of confidence, creativity and persuasion were nothing short of miraculous!  The participants were brilliant, as are we all, when we feel free to be who we genuinely are in front of others.  For more about training in presence for presentation or leadership, visit Self-Expression Center Corporate Presentation Programs.    

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