My 9 top tips
There are certain interventions that can be made to ensure that people do come back a second time. Here are my top tips on the use of voice and other tools for effective delivery.
My tips progress in two main stages. First I’ll address the content. Then I’ll move on to your clarity and confidence in presenting it. Both are necessary, and in that order. Although I will look at these through the lens of a meditation teacher, they are applicable in a corporate context too. For ease I will refer to the people we are trying to engage as the “audience”, rather than students, colleagues or clients and I will refer to the material or content as a “presentation”.
- Strike the right interplay between giving, receiving and diverting. Give people just the right amount of information at the start, on a ‘need to know’ basis; just enough to satisfy their need to know why they are there, what will happen, in what order and where they will end up at the end of the session. Address the uncertainty at as high a level as possible, making it simple and to the point. Then take them on a journey. Have a plan for what you feel is the right journey to take them on but, once you are on it, be totally willing to let it go and work with what presents itself in the room. Don’t be afraid to switch things up and make impromptu interventions to keep things flowing. Which brings me to my second point…
- Leave yourself at the door and be present. If you are too caught up in your own head, busy trying to remember your plan and detail, then all of the incredible content and energy you want to pass on will get lost. Words will remain words and the meaning left to reside within you, which can leave you feeling unfulfilled. Remember that what you are trying to offer your audience is an experience.
- Craft your content so that it takes them on a journey. Make the words come to life, give them meaning by sequencing your points in a way which feels organic with a sense of flow. Feed your audience gently, keep them with you, check in with them to ensure they are with you and harness an environment where they feel comfortable telling you if they’re not following. Imagine the pieces of a puzzle coming together, small pieces starting to build a picture but still leaving the audience with a little curiosity to keep them engaged and alert. This will allow them to still experience the gratifying “aha” moments as they connect the dots of your presentation. Stories, imagery, visualisations and personal experiences are all powerful, so play with these elements!
- When planning and practicing, always put yourself in their shoes. Keep blanking your mind. Imagine you are starting with zero knowledge, keep checking in and see if you would get lost along the way. Where could things be simplified or re-ordered to make more sense? What comes first, then second, then third? After thinking your way through your content, move the attention away from this and more towards experiencing your presentation or class for yourself. Then challenge, re-jig, refine… if you’re convinced, they will be too. And don’t stop crafting, even during the session itself. Again, go with what makes sense and sits right with you at that time by leaving enough room to receive and take onboard live feedback. Always consider your presentation a work-in-progress and you won’t be hesitant to keep evolving it.
- Don’t over-plan or over-rehearse. Leave an element of surprise for yourself. Something for you to look forward to. Try not to overkill the content and rawness of the material and instead keep open that original space where you first felt inspired and the information came flowing to you. Note the key bits which came to you first before you sliced, diced and challenged, as they are your most honest words. Leave enough space for yourself to feel engaged and still challenged to think about what you are saying before you speak. This will also help you remain present.
- Consider yourself a facilitator, not a teacher. This has the power to completely shift your approach to your content and work. If you put pressure on yourself to have it all figured out, to know it all, then you’re blocking out the opportunity to be challenged and for people to input and teach you. In the context of meditation this rings massively true as no two people will experience or process the same verbal instruction in the same way. As individuals, we are each tied up with our own set of internal dynamics with thoughts, feelings and sensations shifting and being influenced all the time. We are never the same person in the same state of mind at any given moment in time. I’m a firm believer of allowing your audience to guide you. You never know what environment you will be stepping into and where people are at. If you go in ready to pick up the vibes of your collective audience, engage with their eye contact and body language, you will be able to meet them where they are and go from there.
As a facilitator in meditation, you are inviting people to engage and develop tools for them to feel empowered to self-instruct and self-experience rather than to create a dependency on you. People are being told what to do all the time so the idea is to remove yourself from that norm and instead teach them to guide themselves. For example “close your eyes and relax” is different to “close your eyes and allow your eyelids to soften”. There is a significant difference in how one experiences these two different approaches. One is more direct and one is a bit more inviting. This is similar to the approach to take when we talk about how one “should” be feeling or experiencing in meditation. It might be better to offer or invite options for what they could experience rather than assume that any two people’s experiences are the same.
- Volume, tone, dynamics. There is a difference between receiving a presentation from a monotonous voice versus one that fluctuates, has dynamism and energy behind it. Certainly there is a distinguishable difference between the voice used when delivering information or instructing and the voice used when you want people to experience the information, such as in a meditation class. Therefore, you have to use your voice to mark boundaries between when you want people to listen, absorb and internalise and when you want them to get practical. You may want to repeat words/sentences or accentuate particular words of importance to ensure the important things are acknowledged and stick. Particularly in that situation when people are in their own ‘zone’ and risk missing bits of information.
Is a slow, soft, calm and collected voice a cliche for meditation practice? Personally, I think it’s no different to any presentation or conversation in that it’s relevant and mindful to the situation and intention. If we want people to have confidence in us, we must embody that confidence… clear, slow, firm, concise, authentic, at ease, present, willing, enthusiastic and unafraid of small silences. If we want to invite people, if we want them to be receptive, open and compassionate, we can opt for a soft voice. If we want to engage, show that we have common ground, break any divides we adopt a cool, light and sometimes humorous persona. If we can switch between these different sets of dynamics, we find a way to balance and own the story through its various phases.
- Experience what you are saying when you are saying it. Take yourself on the journey and others will come along with you. Make sure you do actually feel and believe what you are saying. Conviction, passion and experience all come through in your delivery, tone and choice of words.
What can be challenging as a meditation facilitator is to instruct and experience simultaneously; essentially meditating and verbalising it at the same time. One is able to consciously observe and experience themselves accessing their subconscious mind, their thoughts or the stillness and sensations, but all from a special, non-judgemental distance. If you are delivering a presentation, it is like visualising yourself as a third person that is watching yourself delivering it. Doing this exercise when planning can be a useful way to prepare in a way that is truly mindful of your audience.
- How do we find a voice or delivery that works for everyone? Everyone is different. Offer variety, offer options, but most importantly be yourself and people will connect to that authenticity. An authentic voice is one that will work for everyone. When you are at ease, it puts your audience at ease too. Explain things in different ways. Visual demos, verbal demos, relatable examples, modifications for different abilities. Ask people how they are and what they need. Take time to establish contact with different people… you’ll know who’s struggling to grasp it, who’s with you, who’s not. Verbalise the things that people might be feeling or experiencing. Use your voice and delivery to relate to them.
Regardless of whether it is a meditation class or a business brainstorm, create a space that is conducive to delivering your information in a way that ensures your audience can really experience and retain it. The way you use your voice and delivery can be the tool you use to create and hold that space in a way that is open, stimulating and meaningful.
Neesha Radia has been meditating for over 10 years and has recently left the corporate world. Former UBS Business Risk Manager and now meditation, yoga and Indian classical dance teacher and dance artist, Neesha has always integrated meditation into her lifestyle and mindset to support and guide her activities and to cultivate an unconditional and meaningful connection with herself and her authenticity.