Getting the framework right for your presentation or meeting is vital if your communication is going to be effective and engaging. Without that foundation, it can become waffly and unfocused, which can be confusing and certainly doesn’t inspire confidence.
However, it’s also possible to go the other way: creating a perfect sequence that must be executed exactly as planned sets you up for a dreadful result, because in that mindset, nothing less than perfect will do, and no communication situation is perfect. It can’t be planned to the last detail because communication is a living thing, which moves and changes and flows. You need to make a connection with your audience, and the best way to do that is to align yourself with that flow.
State of Flow
Letting go of your brilliant structure may seem unsettling and counterintuitive, but that relaxed state of mind does actually require the solid structure, it just uses it in a different way – as a framework that can be used as little (or as much) as is helpful in the particular scenario, moment by moment.
The key to this approach is a really thorough rehearsal. I recommend the approach of the stand-up comic: rehearse with the specific intention of making your delivery completely natural and almost improvised. Imagine you’re telling a friend about your subject; it’s a secret which you’re really excited about sharing with them.
When you are truly at one with your material, your mental state in your presentation, pitch or meeting becomes rather zen, because you’re not consciously thinking “What’s next?”, instead you’re in the moment, enjoying what you’re saying here and now, and changing what you do according to what’s happening in the room, which is how the best communication works.
Rehearse thoroughly, using a slightly different wording each time. Walk around, say the words out loud and let it flow like a conversation. When you get it right you don’t have to worry about what’s coming because you know that either: you will look at your cue (key word on slide or sheet of paper) or the link between the sections will remind you once you’re there. Either way you will continue, without the fear of forgetting, which is what can often derail a speaker’s confidence.