Have you ever been in the middle of a talk and lost the thread of where you were going?
Nerves can often cause us to freeze up and forget what we were saying when delivering a pitch for an idea or making an announcement in church.
Suddenly, it feels like you’re in a room full of dots and you’re everywhere but you’re nowhere.
“You lose your train of thought or realise you’ve got off at the wrong stop and you’ve got to get back on,” says Nadine Mozon, an award-winning writer, poet and performance artist who is giving a masterclass on “Building confidence for presentations” in Sydney on Thursday, March 12.
When you find yourself in lockdown, it need not send you into panic, she says. Just acknowledge what’s happened and take a moment to reset your body and allow the oxygen to reach your brain.
“For women, we tend to hide, physically …” – Nadine Mozon
According to Mozon, whose masterclass today is being hosted by ADM (Anglican Deaconess Ministries), the key to building confidence in public speaking is using adrenalin and calming nerves through breath and focus.
In advance of her masterclass, Mozon gave Eternity her top six tips for making a good presentation:
1. Work from the ground up. Plant your feet on the floor and curl your toes inside your shoes, then release.
2. Check in with yourself and take a deep breath.
3. Adjust your pelvic region to achieve alignment with your spine. This creates more space for the breath which manifests in your voice and sends more oxygen to the brain so that your thoughts become clearer.
4. Take stock of your surroundings and “breathe with your eyes.” Where is the wall? Where is the clock? Ground yourself in space.
5. Allow motion and gesture to connect to your imagination.
6. Pan faces so you are speaking to everyone. Allow your eyes to move so that breath and seeing are joined. Accept the scene and breathe it in.
“You have to remind yourself to breathe.” – Nadine Mozon
Mozon has adapted these guidelines from her work at Texas State University, where she teaches acting, movement and writing and ensemble-based work. The principles she teaches are adapted from the Alexander Technique, a process designed to retrain habitual patterns of movement and posture.
“I don’t teach public speaking but what I do teach for the body and the voice and expression is using adrenalin and calming nerves through breath and focus,” she explains.
“Everything that I’m offering here applies within the realm of when I’m speaking to actors and the attention on the other person … to take the energy away from yourself” and so be self-aware rather than self-conscious, she says.
Making her first visit to Australia, Mozon is speaking to an exclusively female audience in the masterclass, a fact that she says carries implications for our “body biography”.
“For women, we tend to hide, physically; there’s so much that happens here in our upper torso – anything that feels that it would be in any way exposed or suggestive or misread gets locked down here, so there’s tension in the shoulders and across the chest and so you’re not breathing.
“You have to remind yourself to breathe. We’re always breathing just enough not to keel over – at least that – but when under duress, pressure, anxiety, we freeze up, so we need to work from the ground up. Gravity’s going to be on your side, no matter what.”
Mazon says the approach is very physical because it’s about playing with the alignment of the spine.
“As we curl back into a comfy place, we’re really shortening the spine and it’s just a physiological reality there’s not as much space for the ribs to expand and the breath to happen. So if you just find the sit bones, you’re going to take a deeper breath even without the decision because your breath is going to realise ‘I have more space’ and take a deeper breath.”
Mozon is also in Australia as a visiting artist for Joining the Dots Theatre, a small theatre company founded by Jo Kadlecek and Alison Chambers.
Hosted by ADM for International Women’s Day, Mozon and four other actors will perform a staged reading of her new play Ms Middle at 7pm on Friday, March 13 at ADM in central Sydney.
“It’s a combination of the reality of being awake and sleepless in the middle of the night and that then becomes a prime-time hour of deep thought, of revisiting revelations and for the woman in particular in this vessel on a journey in mid-life, it becomes where you are in your career, in your family life, in this body that’s awake,” Mozon explains.
She says she became fascinated with the opportunity afforded by this insomnia – which is experienced by many women all over the world – “to take the time that you really don’t think you have to reflect and be still.”
“It’s like my very soul wakes me up, or my very hormonal disposition wakes me up, but something’s got me up in the middle of the night and I’m wide awake – or what I call fast awake,” she says.
Rather than becoming prey to regrets and worries, Mozon sees this awake time as valuable for thought, reflection, healing and cleaning out the mental closet.
“Revisiting moments from the day is something I really started looking at, not with regret but more like to re-evaluate and if I could replay where’s the moment where this went askew, or this is what I didn’t confront, this is where I heard something that was troubling, I moved by it but now it’s visiting me in the middle of the night and it haunts you.
“This is less of worry and more of a decision to revisit, so in that comes then that you aren’t the only one. Across time and space there are women convened in this night court, this space to revisit the remains of the day.”
For more information or tickets for the reading of Ms Middle visit deaconessministries.org.au/events/shewrites-msmiddle.
To enrol for the Masterclass, click here.