How To Overcome The Fear of Public Speaking
The first wave of nausea hit me as I was setting up my laptop.
I instinctively held my breath and fought to force the feeling back from whence it came whilst glancing around me nervously to see if anybody was noticing my rising panic levels.
All seemed well as people were chatting and paying little attention to me, but that was the last time that day I felt that way.
I launched the software on my laptop with my sweaty hands and stared in disbelief at the complexity of the user interface.
I had no idea what half the icons were for, I didn’t know what the benefits of the product were, I didn’t know how to navigate it and I knew nothing about payroll!
So what the hell was I doing here about to demo a technical product to people that had forgotten more about the subject than I ever knew?
At that stage the nausea returned only this time it had brought it’s friends, light-headedness, sweating and panic.
I whispered to my manager out the corner of my mouth that I needed help, but nothing came out, at least nothing coherent.
In any case, when I’d told him of my concerns an hour earlier I hadn’t been trained for more than 30 minutes on this product he’d just laughed and said I’d be ok.
I certainly didn’t feel ok.
At that point he stood up and after clearing his throat started addressing the assembled group from payroll and HR.
He was enthusiastically explaining how we were going to show them a cutting edge product the envy of the entire payroll outsourcing industry.
At this stage my brain decided it didn’t really need my lunch after all, and would much rather empty the contents of my stomach onto the head of the perfectly coiffured lady sat in front of me.
Where’s The Bathroom?
With my hand over my mouth and the room starting to spin, I muttered something about needing the bathroom and left the room climbing over the bemused company CFO en route.
Once inside the bathroom I realized I wasn’t just a tad nervous through lack of preparation for an important presentation, I was dangerously close to having a full blown panic attack.
Have you ever seen anybody have a panic attack?
If you have you’ll know that it’s not a pleasant site and looks uncannily like the person involved is about to end their days
Many people having such an experience initially think they are having a heart attack. This in turn can (not unnaturally) exacerbate their panic and so the spiral continues until somebody grabs the ubiquitous brown paper bag.
I washed my face with cold water and stood there quite literally shaking.
What the hell was going on?
I appeared to have no control over my body whatsoever. The more I told it I really should be able to walk and talk, the more it rebelled by drying out my mouth and making my legs feel like jello.
I have no idea how long I stayed in the bathroom trying to regain my composure, but when I came out my manager was half way through the demonstration and shot me some dirty glances.
No worries though because I shot him some dirty words afterward for hanging me out to dry.
That event happened around 2002 and I can still remember it like it was yesterday.
I did what almost every person on the planet does when they first have a panic attack, I resisted it with all my strength. Consequently, I got the same result as everybody else that adopts such tactics.
So what should I have done?
What could have helped me deal effectively with the situation without the need to leave? And what could have helped ensure that the problems didn’t recur further down the line?
That is what this post is about.
It’s about dealing with highly stressful incidents that involve having to present or speak in front of others.
In short it is about performance anxiety or social anxiety.
It’s about dealing effectively with such situations rather than enduring them. And I am not just talking about full-on panic attacks either because thankfully they don’t happen to many people.
Most of the techniques discussed are to help you understand that there is always another option and that you can overcome any irrational and even rational fears you may have.
To begin with I’ll take a look at what performance and social anxiety are and why we become fearful.
Then I’ll offer you some tools you can employ to help minimize your fear and reduce the potential for panic attacks.
You’re A Very Limited Edition
According to the Anxiety and Depression Society of America least 30,000,000 Americans suffer from some form of anxiety and approximately 5 million from social anxiety.
I’m here to say they are full of shit
They are just the people we know about because they’ve reported their symptoms to their doctor. The real figure is likely to be very much higher than that because the fear of public speaking is technically social anxiety.
Do you really think only 1 in 73 people fear public speaking?
That’s quite obviously ridiculous because in surveys on people’s greatest fear it’s nearly always at #1.
In one survey the fear of public speaking was at #1 with death at #7 prompting Jerry Seinfeld to joke that more people would rather be in the box at a funeral than delivering the eulogy.
Whereas to the casual observer social anxiety may seem either just a tad weird or no big deal, to the person involved it may be incredibly debilitating and distressing to the point where it completely dominates their life.
The modus operandi for the majority of people who suffer from social anxiety is to make every effort to avoid the circumstances that can trigger an attack
Or when such a situation does arise, fight it like hell or get the fuck out of there stat.
Paradoxically, about the only thing this approach will guarantee, is to make the situation worse, and not just the immediate situation either. It will almost certainly serve to make future occurrences more intense and stressful.
Everything you say, think or do is a communication with yourself.
Therefore, when you avoid something through fear you are telling your unconscious mind (or more accurately your amygdala which is part of your brains limbic system) danger is present.
It then stores that message for similar events in the future.
In severe cases avoidance can lead to agoraphobia and/or depression as people withdraw further and further into their shell in an attempt to avoid whatever it is they believe will cause them anxiety.
But Why Are We So Weird?
So why do we replicate such behavior if it doesn’t work efficiently?
We’re all hardwired with the fight or flight (or curl up into a ball and do nothing) response.
If we perceive a situation as dangerous then avoiding it is the natural and sensible evolutionary response.
If you awoke one morning to find a huge Grizzly Bear rummaging in your fridge demanding some salmon, it’s not sensible to tell him to fuck off and then rudely push past him to make the coffee and butter your toast.
A wiser course of action is to slowly retreat, being careful not to slip on the contents of your bowels that are probably running down the backs of your legs as you do so.
Fortunately though, we seldom find bears in the kitchen, so unless your name is Grizzly Adams, adopting avoidance tactics on the rare occasions when it does happen, is probably wise and unlikely to lead to long-term issues.
The same cannot be said for social interaction though.
Even though the Internet offers a whole host of opportunities to avoid a great deal of human intercourse, to do so entirely is almost impossible and certainly not recommended.
It may be a presentation that needs to be given. a wedding speech delivered, a business meeting attended or a eulogy spoken. Spending a life time avoiding such things can be exhausting, demoralizing and ultimately fruitless.
Not only that, but you’re fundamentally a social animal. Even if you have been shy since birth and your shyness has been passed down through generations it makes no difference, you still need interaction with other people.
It is no accident that solitary confinement is still considered one of the worst punishments you can inflict on another human being.
Imagine you hear the funniest joke you have ever heard. You are crying with laughter, you can barely catch your breath and your cheeks are hurting. What’s your immediate response once you have calmed down.
You will almost certainly want to share the joke with somebody else.
I’m not suggesting you will do that because if you are painfully shy or lack confidence you’ll probably talk yourself into accepting the erroneous belief nobody is interested in hearing anything you have to say.
Think of a few of the best moments of your life and see how many of them were spent alone.
If you ever talk to somebody that has back-packed alone around the world you’ll notice it’s the interaction with other people that make the great stories.
The amazingly eccentric explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes has spent months, probably years, on his own, walking, climbing, sailing, running and flying round the world.
He’s one of a very select group of people to have climbed Everest and visited both Poles, yet what does he do when he gets home from each expedition?
He gets out and talks about it. He shares his stories with other people, because that’s what people do and when we deprive ourselves of that ability the events themselves seem less enjoyable after the fact.
Can You Fix Me?
t’s not unusual for clients to call me and after giving me a run down on their issues asking “Can you fix me?”
My usual response is:
“No, because you’re not broken”
It may sound like I’m being glib and not listening to the person talking to me, but it’s neither. It’s simply a belief that stems from the NLP presupposition that nobody is broken, no matter what their circumstances.
We just have different strategies and ways of coping.
I don’t want potential clients adopting the mindset that something is wrong with them. I prefer to have them thinking they’re just great (because they are), but can be even greater with some fine tuning.
The reason I adopt the belief that nobody is broken is because all our behaviors are useful in some context or other. As human beings we never self-sabotage, all or actions have a positive intent.
I mention this because the starting point with making change and overcoming shyness, social anxiety, panic disorders etc is accepting there’s nothing wrong with you.
Your body is working just as it was designed to under the circumstances.
You may now be thinking I’m losing the plot, after all not many public speakers stand in front of a room full of people unable to talk, shaking like a streaker at the Winter Olympics and close to passing out thinking:
“Wow this is so frickin awesome, I am so normal, thank God for Life Coaches”
It’s important at this stage to differentiate between your body working correctly, as opposed to working effectively.
I remember hearing the late Wayne Dyer tell a story once about a woman he had been counseling. She was married to an alcoholic and was complaining to Dyer about her husbands disgraceful behavior.
Dyer asked her what he did when he was drunk and the women reeled off a litany of boorish acts from shouting and screaming threateningly to driving whilst intoxicated and falling asleep on the couch.
Dyer then asked how long the guy had been an alcoholic and she replied, all their married life.
“I don’t get it then” said Dyer, “Because it seems to me this guy is a perfect drunk, he is doing what all good drunks do, so what’s the problem?”
When I started to panic prior to my presentation my body was acting perfectly normally.
My amygdala (part of the brain’s limbic system) perceived I was in danger and it kicked into action my sympathetic nervous system, which triggered the fight or flight response.
I was working correctly, even if it wasn’t very effective, or to my managers satisfaction.
When you get anxious it’s likely that amongst other things, your mouth will dry up, you will want to spend ridiculous amounts of time in the bathroom without even checking your make-up, and your heart will start to race.
Saliva is there to guard the easiest access point to the body from coming under attack from malicious pathogens. It suffocates and neutralizes bacteria before they have chance to enter the body and do some damage.
It also helps break down the fats and starches in food, keeps your mouth clean and acts as a general lubricant.
Consequently, when the fight or flight response is triggered the body isn’t thinking about breaking down food or warding off infection because it has much bigger fish to fry and needs all available resources to avoid death.
Therefore, your heart speeds up dramatically allowing your body to distribute blood and oxygen to your muscles in case you need to fight or head for the hills pursued by a Saber Toothed Tiger.
Similarly, your brain wants to evacuate everything from the body that isn’t strictly needed (and it usually doesn’t care which end it uses) thus making you a tad lighter and possibly giving you that extra crucial edge over your hungry new friend.
The problem is, the fight or flight response was invented way back when even before the Internet, and was really designed for when we come under physical, rather than mental attack.
It’s really still on Version 1.0 and has never been updated as promised.
Therefore, one of the things you need when giving a speech (a nicely lubricated mouth) disappears as your brain kicks into action age-old processes designed to help you either attack your audience or run away from them.
Neither of these approaches help in getting re-booked by the way.
The really annoying thing about the fight or flight response is that it doesn’t recognize logic or common sense.
In fact it laughs heartily at them both and kicks sand in their respective faces for good measure.
You Cannot Remove The Fight or Flight Response
That’s because the response is hardwired and there’s little you can do to break that wiring, especially when you’re coming under attack.
And therein lies the problem. Most people try to deal with their fears by either avoiding them completely or trying to rationalize them away and neither approach is particularly effective.
Avoiding your fears will almost always exacerbate them and make you less able to deal with them if/when they do arise again.
Trying to rationalize them away during the actual event is a complete waste of time because your body is way too busy to be listening to you.
Your limbic system has literally hi-jacked the executive function in your brain and you cannot access higher reasoning.
And trying to rationalize under normal conditions that for example, flying is the safest form of transport, won’t work either.
It just confirms to your unconscious that there really is something to worry about, because if there weren’t you wouldn’t be banging on about it so much.
If a burglar entered my home through a bedroom window and as he did so my 3 dobermans rounded the corner snarling, gnashing and looking to rip his balls off, what do you think his response would be?
I’m guessing his heart rate would spike dramatically and could be dangerously close to the level where cognitive function breaks down and anything other than dribbling proves way too complicated.
He’d almost certainly be looking to leave the premises sooner rather than later.
What if we change one small aspect of the story and this time the burglar has kept dobermans for the last 20 years and even trains dogs when he’s not out making peoples lives misery. Do you think he’d still be terrified?
I doubt it. He may still not want to mess with them, but it’s unlikely he’ll forget how to use his legs when he’s trying to climb back out the window like the previous guy because he’s used to handling big dogs.
This is the reason every soldier is subjected to extreme stress under managed conditions prior to being given the keys to the Humvee and sent off to kill foreigners.
By replicating hostile conditions over and over and over again, the army are creating new default behaviors and increasing the likelihood that the soldiers fight or flight response wont kick in when the real shit hits the fan.
Having a bunch of freaked out loons running around with sub-machine guns killing each other is terribly bad for the armed forces recruitment business.
What all this means is if you have panicked in the past under certain circumstances there is a very high probability that you will do so again if the same situation arises. Unless that is, you adopt a completely different strategy.
Note: According to Gavin de Becker in the brilliant book ‘The Gift of Fear’ (al) there have been numerous distressing cases of people trying to dial 911 from their cell phone during a life or death emergency such as an armed invader in their home, only for them to fail to hit send.
The belief is that these people had years of using a traditional phone where it wasn’t necessary to hit send and in their panic they reverted to previous patterns of behavior.
Techniques Of People Who Have Beaten The Fear of Public Speaking
I’m not saying that it isn’t possible to eradicate fear from your life, but I am saying it’s as close to being impossible as is humanly imaginable.
I’d wager good money that many more people have climbed Everest than banished all fear from their lives.
Fear has a purpose in your life, it keeps you from making all sorts of ridiculous decisions that would endanger your personal safety and also that of people around you.
For example, 1 in 1,000 people that skydive regularly are going to die a splattery death.
Compare that to the odds of dying whilst bowling which are around 1 in 100,000,000, and you can clearly see why few people are shitting themselves on the way to the bowling alley, yet almost every novice skydiver is wishing they’d said no to breakfast – me included!
The vast majority of people that die skydiving do so as a result of human error, so to be nervous is your body offering the requisite response to a potentially perilous situation and screaming,
“Focus!! That’s your buddies backpack you’re putting on you fucking idiot and a Cuban sandwich will be of no comfort when you’re hurtling toward the ground at 120 mph.!!!”
However, when debilitating nerves arise in situations that don’t pose a genuine threat they’re not helpful and action needs to be taken to stop the fear running amok.
So how do you get rid of nerves then?
The honest answer is, like fear, you probably can’t eradicate nerves altogether, nor should you want to.
Here’s a secret, but please don’t tell anybody else, because it’s classified top secret and I have signed an oath in puppy dog blood not to allow mere mortals in on it.
Many of the most accomplished speakers, musicians, politicians, business people and athletes get nervous, it’s just they don’t show it and they don’t let it stop them doing whatever it is they want to do.
There have been many highly successful actors and sports stars who would physically vomit through anxiety prior to an important event.
How amazing and transformational is that, knowing you’re no different to some of the people you most admire?
I haven’t had a panic attack in well over a decade and what I had probably wasn’t even a full on panic attack anyway, but I still get nervous whenever I get up to speak in public or do an interview.
But that’s ok, because I know my nerves are just a reminder to focus and they always disappear after a minute or two.
Feeling nervous is an emotion the same as feeling happy, grumpy, optimistic, melancholy, serious, cheerful etc. Nobody ever died from feeling cheerful and equally nobody ever died from feeling nervous.
You probably already knew that though so let’s take a look at some techniques guaranteed to help alleviate debilitating nerves and get you doing exactly what you want to do rather than what you think you dare do.
You’re Perfect, So Just Breathe
You’re made up of many parts. There is the funny you, the happy you, the miserable you, the curious you, the whiny you, the serious you, the playful you and the frightened you.
Unfortunately most people like to bury the parts of their personality they don’t like. They have internal conversations that are sometimes closer to battles, where they insist this isn’t how it should be.
Well tough, because this is exactly how it should be!
If you try and ignore the more needy sides of your personality they will come back to bite you. Being kind to yourself means accepting that you’re not perfect and it means not hurling abuse at yourself when things go wrong.
Observe your feelings more often rather than judging them. Be curious about what is going on because your brain is amazingly brilliant and it’s doing stuff that it genuinely thinks will help.
Occasionally like the best of us it get’s stuff wrong, but that’s never a reason to beat it up anymore than you would a child that failed a spelling test.
Respect it, talk lovingly to it and most of all, invite it to find alternate ways of doing things.
This does sound quite woo-woo to a lot of people, but seriously think about what I’m saying and I’m confident you’ll see the logic. In any event, it’s certainly a lot more sensible than repeating behaviors that have been proven time and again to be unsuccessful.
I have an important piece of information to share with you if you have ever been hit by a panic attack or severe nerves when about to speak or in anyway perform in public.
You cannot have a panic attack and be in control of your breathing.
It is physiologically impossible to be deep breathing from your diaphragm in a controlled manner and be panicking. The two are mutually exclusive.
That’s the good news, but unfortunately there’s also some bad news.
If you’re having a panic attack nothing I say now is going to stick with you.
The last thing you’ll be thinking at the time is, “Hm, what was it Brownson said in his rather excellent blog post I should do if this happened again?”, you’ll be way to busy thrashing around and thinking you’re about to die.
If you want to learn a new skill, the way you do that is first practicing it under benign circumstances.
Nobody has their first driving lesson when there’s 10 feet of snow on the ground, (unless they’re learning to drive a snow plow that is). Similarly, do not try and teach yourself deep breathing when you feel like your lungs are about to explode, because you’ll fail.
Remember what I said about soldiers earlier on?
The reason they are so good under fire is because they have practiced it again and again and again until it’s their default response.
Practice deep breathing (by that I mean slowly, from our diaphragm and making the exhale about 50% longer than the inhale*) consciously whenever you get a moment to do so.
The more you do this, the more you’ll be able to remember to do so when panic strikes. You can practice at your desk, walking the dog, feeding the kids, watching TV, doing the laundry or pretty much anywhere you need to be breathing, so no excuses.
Deep breathing has all sorts of other positive health benefits to so you are in a position to create a huge win/win.
It will not remove all your nerves, but it will allow you to talk and breathe at the same time which can be remarkably useful on occasions.
* Every time you breathe in you trigger the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and every time you breathe out you trigger the parasympathetic nervous system which dampens the fight or flight. This is why people pulse is never static it is always going up and down, even at rest. So making your exhale longer you give the parasympathetic nervous system the opportunity to take control.
See What You Want
Your brain is crap at distinguishing between what’s real and what isn’t which has its upsides and its downsides. It’s fortunate for amusement parks, movie makers and the certain other nefarious industries, but less so for anybody that likes to dwell on the darker side of life.
Everybody visualizes (and when I talk about visualization I am including all the senses and not just what you see) on a regular basis. If I asked you what color your first car was you’d make a rapid visual construction of it in your head before answering me.
I say that because people often tell me they cannot visualize and 99 times out of 100 that’s not true. They may not be great at is, but that’s not the same thing and practice will cure that.
I have yet to meet anybody with an intense fear that didn’t visualize things going wrong for them on a regular basis. It may be seeing plane wreckage on the runway, a huge snake appearing in front of them as they take a walk or people laughing at them as they stand on stage delivering a eulogy.
How about instead of visualizing things going spectacularly wrong next time you come under pressure and creating an ugly self-fulfilling prophesy, you do the exact opposite?
Think of any potential situation where inappropriate fear may cause you difficulties. Then after you have made yourself all lovely and chilled in your favorite chair or on your bed, start to imagine with as much clarity as you can, things going well, really well.
You can see yourself landing at your destination airport looking cool, clam and collected, laughing at the terrified snake as it slithers off into the undergrowth or attendees at the funeral coming up to you afterward with tears in their eyes saying how moved they were by your speech.
Great times to visualize are first thing in the morning just after you wake up and last thing at night just before you doze off. The latter is great as you give your unconscious mind plenty of time to process whatever it is you want it to process.
I’m not going into the mechanics of how and why this works, but trust me, it does and it works very well.
Say What You Want
If we decided to go for a beer together and on being asked by the bartender what I wanted I was to reply “I don’t want a bottle of Bud please?”
What do you think he’d say? More to the point, what do you think you’d say?
I suspect there would be some strange glances between you and the person behind the bar before one of you would say something like “Yeh ok, but that still leaves 721 different drinks for you to choose from, so which DO you want”
Not only is your mind not great at distinguishing between fact and fiction it’s also not that brilliant at determining negatives, especially when under pressure.
It’s the reason I can use the tired coaching cliche ‘Don’t think about a pink elephant’ relaxed in the knowledge that you now have a cute pink elephant wondering around in your upper paddock.
If I use don’t at the beginning of a sentence you first have to process what it is I don’t want you to do before you can avoid it. Therefore, you have to generate the pink elephant visualization before you can know what it is I don’t want you thinking about.
With me so far?
It’s the reason why schools came to the conclusion some years ago that giving positive commands to kids works better than negative ones. In other words, telling kids not to run in the corridor was far less effective than telling them to walk.
The problem is though that when under duress we often tell ourselves what we don’t want.
“I don’t want to panic, I don’t want to panic”
Each time that happens the brain has to explain to itself what panicking is and it exacerbates the process.
Give yourself positive commands and advice such as:
“I’d like to be fully relaxed now”
“I want to breathe deeply and slowly”
Be Aware of Your Body Language
You scowl when you’re unhappy about something and you smile or even laugh when you’re happy, right?
Similarly, you stand upright and open when you are confident and that’s why people lacking in confidence are quite often easy to spot.
They have a tendency to shrink themselves by hunching their shoulders, closing their chest and bringing their arms in close to feel less vulnerable.
They may also put their hands in front of their face more than is natural and look down a lot to avoid eye contact.
The super cool thing is this though.
Whereas smiling does happen because you’re happy, happiness also increases when you smile for no other reason than your brain senses the muscles that indicate happiness are being activated.
It concludes you must be happy and starts producing endorphins that in turn make you feel happier. Voila! You have created your very own happiness spiral.
So what do you think will happen if you spend about 2 or 3 minutes standing in the kind of pose that you would adopt when you are feeling confident prior to going on stage?
Correct, you would feel more confident from the get-go.
Then if you carry on standing like that and resist the urge to constrict yourself you keep that bio-feedback going and remain confident. Cool eh?
If you doubt this, watch Amy Cuddy at Ted.
Anchoring Courtesy of NLP
Once upon a time a man called Ivan from Ryazan in deepest darkest Russia had a dog.
His dog loved steak and Ivan loved to feed him. He would ring a bell to let Roverski know his dinner was ready and the little scamp would bound up to him salivating and licking his chops as he ran.
He would then wolf his food down a bit like a wolf, and then probably have an after dinner nap.
One day Ivan rang the bell with no food ready for Roverski. The pooch was suitably confused and skulked back to his basket plotting revenge if it should ever happen again.
The following day the same thing did indeed happen so Roverski quite rightly attacked Ivan and bit his face off and ate that instead. Never again did Pavlov piss about with Roverskis bell.
You probably already know about Pavlov, his dog and his bell in which case you also know what a conditioned response, or as we call it in NLP, an anchor is.
Imagine you’re walking down the street and as you walk past a bakery you get hit by the smell of freshly baked croissants.
Immediately you are transported to a different time and a different place without the aid of hallucinogenics, a time that you remember with fondness, a time from your childhood when you were blissfully happy and content.
Without anything else happening your step becomes lighter and you’re thinking to yourself “Aint it great to be alive?”
Alternatively, you’re driving down the highway when a certain record comes on the radio. It’s the record that you and your ex-partner thought of as being written just for you two.
You’d get all dewy eyed and weak-kneed when you heard it together and you’d probably stare into each other’s eyes for days on end or until you keeled over from severe dehydration.
Unfortunately, he or she ran off with your insanely wealthy former best friend to live in bliss on a Caribbean Island, and now it just makes you want to sob your little eyes out.
The reality is nothing tangible happened in either of the above events you were still in exactly the same situation on the same day with the same clothes on and the same amount of cash in the bank, yet your state shifted in an instant.
That is what we call an anchor and you have thousands of them whether you know about them or not. Some are beneficial like the former example, but a lot aren’t, like the latter.
When I was about 12 I was traveling home from school on the bus eating a scotch egg. For the uninitiated, a scotch egg is a disgusting concoction of a hard-boiled egg covered in sausage meat. I have no idea why it’s called a Scotch egg unless it’s because you need to have drunk half a bottle of scotch to find them appealing, but I digress.
I ate this thing at a time when I knew I was coming down with flu or something similar. I spent the next 2 weeks in bed feeling awful and the Scotch egg wasn’t even to blame.
However, afterwards the thought of eating one of those things was anathema to me. I would have rather eaten my own spleen such was my level of revulsion.
That is a negative anchor going into overdrive.
My unconscious mind was linking Scotch Egg to illness and said “No way kiddo, you’re not eating one of those nasty things ever again”
People can have a similar reaction after becoming ill though excessive alcohol intake. The thought of drinking afterward can cause their unconscious mind to recreate the same feelings in an attempt to stop them. Some people actually do say never again and stick to it.
How is this information useful you may be wondering?
It’s very useful if you work in advertising and/or marketing because they are constantly trying to create positive anchors to their products, but that’s another book for another day because I’m more concerned what it can do for you.
Imagine having an anchor for confidence or focus or even self-control.
Would that be a cool thing to have? Well why not? Anchors can be set intentionally just as easily as they can occur by chance. If you ever attend a convention where there are numerous speakers, look to see if you can spot a speaker that’s coming to the stage doing something a little out of place.
It may be something as subtle as pulling on their ear lobe or placing their index finger and thumb together. There’s a good chance they’ve anchored that action to a feeling of confidence.
What are you waiting for? Instant confidence beckons so let’s get to it! Firstly, find a time when you can close your eyes and you’re not going to be disturbed for 15 or 20 minutes so it’s probably not wise to try this in a busy office or whilst operating heavy machinery.
- Take a deep breath, exhale slowly and as you do allow your eyes to close and a wave of relaxation to flow down your body. Do this three or four times with your eyes remaining closed and just allow yourself to become completely relaxed.
- When you are at a stage that we professional life coaches officially call ‘chilled to da bone mon’, start to re-create the feelings that you are looking to anchor and have on tap. If it’s confidence, think of a time when you were full of confidence.
- When you get to a point when you just know they are about to peak, set the anchor. This simply involves touching a place on your body that you can replicate easily at any time in the future.
- Common places are the forearm, knuckles, pulling ear lobe, index finger onto thumb but nowhere that might get you arrested.
- Try to avoid a motion that you already use regularly as we don’t want you firing this anchor by mistake all the time. The only absolute requisite is that you can replicate exactly whatever it is you decide to do. So if you use fingers on forearms you need to use the same amount of fingers and the same amount of pressure each time.
- When you have done this break your state by thinking about something completely different for a few moments, like how come cats are so keen on fish yet if you throw one in a river they thrash around and complain a lot. Not that I would ever do such a thing by the way,
- Now fire the anchor by repeating whatever action you decided on. When you do this allow the feelings to flow, do not fight them, just know they will be there.
- If they are not as intense as you would like (and they almost certainly wont be the first few times), no problem, do the process again and reinforce it. You can do this as often as you like and each time you’ll increase the intensity, so stick with it because it always works although it take different length of times for different people.
That’s all there is to it. It’s not complicated, but it is very effective and used by a lot more people that you probably realize so give it a go. If you’d rather see a demo, click here.
Note: To create what ever state you want you need to see what you would have seen when you previously experienced it, hear what you would have heard and feel what you felt. If there are any tastes or smells associated with the experience, then allow them to be present too.
When you are in the moment let the feelings double, then double again and then continue to intensify.
Know Your Material
About 2 years ago I agreed to be interviewed on a TV news program being filmed here in Orlando.
I had been supplied the questions up front and had scripted my answers.
The first run went poorly to say the least and I can assure you none of the film crew were nodding their heads admiringly at the loquacious, erudite British guy sweating like the dude in Midnight Express in front of them.
Fortunately for me the interviewer fluffed her lines and we had to do a re-take.
It was at that stage I literally dropped my cue cards on the floor and decided to ad lib the answers.
I knew my material well enough not to need a script and trying to remember my answers was throwing me.
Unless there is a specific reason why you need to do so i.e. you’re reciting somebody else’s material, do not try and learn the entire speech verbatim.
Know your start and end and know the structure and then cut yourself some slack.
If you’re trying to recite something word for word and you lose your flow you’re in trouble. It will be very difficult to recover your composure at that stage.
Watch The Great And The Good Of Public Speaking
It’s easy enough by visiting sites like YouTube or the excellent TED to see great speakers in action.
If you want to join their ranks watch what they’re already doing and copy them.
I don’t mean mimic accents or styles of delivery, just look for common themes and if they resonate with you, adopt them whilst remaining true to who you are.
For example I am very animated and full on when I speak (no seriously I am), so there is little point me modeling Eckhart Tolle or Wayne Dyer, Tony Robbins would make a lot more sense.
Never underestimate what you can learn from people who have already done what you want to do.
I was a member of Toastmasters for two years and it’s doubtful there is a better, safer environment to learn to speak in public. Everybody is there to improve their speaking skills and to help each other.
It is a very relaxing atmosphere and newbie’s are given plenty of encouragement and valuable feedback.
Practice, Practice, Practice
With flip cameras retailing for the price of a night out and bathroom mirrors abounding you have no excuse not to hone your skills. In the brilliant ‘Outliers’ Malcolm Gladwell talks about the need to be doing something for 10,000 hours before you can comfortably declare yourself to be a world expert.
I’ll save you the math and say that’s probably about 10 years of public speaking if you are doing it twice per week.
That’s the bad news, but the good news is you really don’t need to be a world expert to deliver a speech that adds value to people. Anybody can get themselves to a competent level in a fairly short period of time if they practice.
Drink – No, Not Half a Bottle of Vodka!
You’re mouth will tend to dry out, so whenever possible have a glass of water or gin handy.
I have heard of people putting a little dab of petroleum jelly on the inside of their upper lip to stop it drying out and sticking to their gums.
Seems a tad extreme to me, but it apparently, it works very well.
There is something public speakers refer to as the law of ten. It means that the audience see about 10% of your nerves.
This is the reason it’s never wise to tell people you are nervous. By doing so you shift their attention away from your message and on to what is wrong and they will see the signs.
If you don’t tell them, they probably won’t.
I really hope you have found this post useful in dealing with your nerves.
I cannot reiterate enough that nerves and anxiety are a part of life and you will encounter them on a fairly regular basis if you are like most people.
It’s not the nerves that are the problem, it is how you react to them.
When I am nervous about something that isn’t really threatening, I remind myself that I’ll still be eating dinner later on and all this will be behind me.
It may not mean they completely disappear, but it puts things in perspective.
If you have found this rather long post helpful I hope you will share it on social media.
Comments most appreciated.