Neurodiversity and Communicating

Much is made of the benefits of the Neurodiverse (ND) mind and the special qualities of creativity and blue-sky thinking it can bring. But many people that come under the heading of ND (whether with dyslexia, dyspraxia or Attention Deficit Disorder) face extra challenge when having to present.

This can be anything from freezing, forgetfulness, words just not coming out, misreading and typos on the PowerPoint down to full-blown panic. It’s the time when all those really exciting ideas you just want to get out get completely jumbled and confused, and the brain goes dead. Here are the few tips to ease the presenting experience and help you project your best self.

Eye Contact

Many people may have issues with eye contact. How long do you look at someone for without making him or her feel uncomfortable? If you don’t look at people at all that may feel excluded. A useful tip is when you are in front of an audience you don’t have to look into their eyes to make convincing contact. Set your eye gaze just at the top of people’s heads and skim your eyes over. Start at one side of the room and take in the audience from let to right or right to left. This way you are including everyone but not focussing on one person to the exclusion of the rest. In conversation you can think about holding eye contact for approximately 50 percent of the time to be reasonable engaged.

Preparation

The bad news is you will need plenty of it – everyone does. The good news is that it will pay off. Make sure you have your structure really tight. Try taking a pack of post-it notes, thought shower your ideas for what you need to include to get your key points across, and then ruthlessly prune according to what makes the most convincing argument from your audience’s point of view. Practice with an understanding friend or relative, and then the night before – get a good night’s sleep.

Sleeping

ND people are often great at spotting other people’s mistakes and word blind to their own. Get a trusted friend or colleague who will be factual, not critical, to simply check. Yes, I know we have a spell check feature on the computer but many ND people may not find that helpful enough. Dyslexics may have had issues with phonics, leading to spelling challenges later in life.

Time and time again I am told how ND presenters have issues with words and forgetfulness. I have seen dyslexic pop stars interviewed and forget the right word for something. It doesn’t really matter. We all do it. If it is a key word then include it in your PowerPoint or have it to hand on a cue card. Another advantage of a cue card is that they are something to hold to steady the nerves and stop any unnecessary hand flapping.

Confidence

Going through the system as a ND person will inevitably mean criticism along the way. You may have been told how thick, stupid and worthless you are. Use polite visual imagery and realign your mental thoughts before a presentation. Say out loud the times you have been successful and take those positive thoughts into the room with you.

Body language

‘Walk tall’ says it all. Enter the room with the physical confidence of a winner. Stand tall, stand square, breath, smile and go for it.

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