When most people think of public speaking fears they instantly flick to a nightmare, sweaty palms, crackling voice, scrambled brains and legs made of jelly. That used to be me. Like an estimated 40% of the population, I would rather have jumped out of a 15-story window than stand in front of a room of people and talk. I also knew that if I could overcome this challenge, I could share my message with the masses, and live my passion and purpose.
Now it’s unusual for me to go a week without presenting. I love it, and it’s so important for running my business, connecting with large groups of people and completing my life mission, to change the world one person at a time.
When you take the stage you instantly become an authority in your area, you are a leader, you have the opportunity to share your knowledge and skill with people who need what you have. If you give into the fear and stay hidden behind a computer or stuck in an office, then you never really give your company or your work the oxygen it needs to breathe and grow.
That’s a short list, the benefits to taking the stage are just about endless and you will gain personal skills and conquer unique challenges as well. So, you can see how beneficial overcoming public speaking fears is, which is important. You need to have a positive goal that’s big enough to outweigh your fear.
Take some time now to think about all the amazing things you can gain from presenting.
Now all that’s left to do is chip away at the fear, breaking it down with neuro linguistic programming (NLP) methods bit by bit until there is no reason left for you to stand in the shadows.
The trick to taking the stage
No, it isn’t imagining the audience naked. It’s much more scientific than that.
When we study NLP, the way our brain communicates internally and externally, we gain a lot of information on best practices to achieve goals and, at the same time we also develop skills that allow us to replicate what other people who are immensely successful do by asking HOW they do it and knowing that if they did it, so can I.
Know what you are doing this for
Part of NLP is understanding what your unconscious mind is doing. Normally we never hear or see the unconscious at work, it’s silent, super fast and so deeply ingrained in our biological makeup, we let it run on auto pilot.
The number one thing we need to know about our unconscious mind when it comes to public speaking is your unconscious takes everything personally. It’s always about I. When you go to present, your mind is so charged with “me, me, me”, that we forget that it’s actually about the audience, it’s about increasing their knowledge and giving them something they will find useful. Instead, the short-range unconscious is thinking about how you will be exposed, you’ll be boring, you’ll be stupid, you’ll be uncoordinated and they’ll see that you are a fraud.
The subconscious is also very resourceful, it can apply different fears to different situations. If only five people turn up to your event, it’s a massive catastrophe, if 200 people turn up to your event, a massive catastrophe, 55 people, catastrophe!
These thoughts are so ‘loud’ and your subconscious is so determined to protect you from this terrible exposure that it will keep you frozen, panicked and stressed. Don’t do it. You’ll get hurt.
The truth is, if you don’t master this, you probably will get hurt, maybe financially, maybe through diminishing reputation, maybe through a lack of self-confidence that eventually leads to you quitting on something extraordinary.
So how do we override the fearful, protective very personal view of the unconscious mind and take charge on the stage and excel as a presenter no matter how many people are in front of you?
This is our primal way of learning: mimicking a role model.
The most effective way to deliver what you want, is to know what you want it to look like before you get started.
When you have a really clear picture, feeling, or sound of what the end result is, find presenters that achieve that result and study them. Take notes on their presence, their delivery, their timing, and the way they engage their audience to provoke a response. Then incorporate those winning systems into your own presentation. The super important thing here is you know with crystal clarity what you want to achieve. If you just start mimicking everyone who does a good job, it will have a muddled effect and a confused outcome.
You can model comedians, TED talks, even government ministers. Whatever gets the result you want, you can adapt it to your presentation. For really incredible results, go to live presentations and chat with the presenter after the event (about anything you want, it doesn’t need to be a ‘presenter tips’ segment or technique interrogation).
Even if you know your subject matter really well, having a well-structured speech will give your unconscious mind step-by-step instructions on what comes next. Your subconscious favours order, instructions and numbers, so break your speech into sections and number them. Then work through, 1. 2. 3… Practice in front of people you trust, time yourself and record your rehearsals so you can notice any twitching, gestures or habits that are distracting.
Does that mean no swearing? Not necessarily, your subject and audience will determine if swearing is in or out. Know your ideal audience member. Focus on the person who will get the biggest breakthrough or purchase your top product and design your speech for them. Use words they will respond to and stories they will connect with.
So if clean doesn’t mean any swearing, what does it mean? Any changes you make as you practice, change on your main document. Nothing is more distracting or confusing than having notes or changes in the margins. This way when you talk, your main focus is your audience, your secondary focus is your notes.
Colours are always great for enhancing memory and giving your unconscious mind a focus point, so use coloured markers and highlighters on your notes.
Make sure every part of your delivery is for your audience. They will respond to honesty, personality and passion so put everything you have out there so they can better understand you and get the most out of what you have to offer. By making them your goal you push the focus out to something bigger, your contribution and connection, these are deep seated needs of the unconscious mind, if you target these, it will respond and assist you to make good on this goal.
Stand tall, shoulders back with feet comfortably apart for solid balance. Move with purpose, if you walk from one end to the other, know where you are headed and stop in the spot you determine. Coordinate your movements with your words so if you are talking about moving close or making a connection, do that, move closer to your audience, reach into the air. Movement and stance speak volumes. Confidence in body language will fool your unconscious mind into thinking that you are as solid as a rock, even if on the inside you are trembling.
When you are so focused on everything else you can accidentally divert attention away from vital automatic functions, like breathing. Your breathing is part of your body language, it also circulates air through your body and feeds your mind to keep it clear and responsive. When we panic our breathing system alters; we start to take in shallow rapid breaths from our chest. This limits thinking, decision making and creative ability. We can’t respond to anything around us, we revert to survival instincts. Be aware of your breathing and practice making changes. Breathing mindfully in slow, deep breaths is enough to override panic. Even the most severe panic attack can be forced into submission within 16 slow deep breaths. When you cannot think your way out of panic, just breathe.
If you get the opportunity to breathe in time with your audience definitely do that. You can deliver it as an instruction to one person or everyone. When you ask them to breathe, take breaths in and out with them to create strong connections and establish trust. Spend some time when you are doing rehearsals to play with different breathing types, shallow in your chest, middle in your ribs and deep in your diaphragm. Notice the different emotions that occur, any change in the tone of your voice, the speed of your delivery and the effect it has on your audience. Practice this as much as you can to develop the ability to switch breathing easily without having to focus too much on it.
One of the fastest NLP tools is anchoring. Anyone can do this (we actually do it all the time without being aware of it.) And load yourself up some go-to confidence, passion and energy. You can choose a physical anchor on your body, anchor in positive feelings with strong body language, wear a charged token, like a necklace or ring, charge yourself up with some music before hand that evokes a strong relevant emotion.
Having familiarity in the room is really helpful, especially when you are in a new environment. Have trusted people, friends or family, sit in obvious points in the room so you can look to them whenever you need reassurance or a friendly face. You can also put items up on the stage or at the back of the room that you know and feel safe having. Marking it as your territory is reassuring to your unconscious mind.
If the occasion calls for it you can also mingle before the event and get to know some of your audience, what they are here for, and what they are hoping to achieve. Getting a personal connection helps build the atmosphere in the room and means when you look out at your guests, you will see more familiar faces.
A mistake is not going to be an issue unless you make it one, the best method is to ignore any errors and carry on. Your material is what is important, not delivering it to perfection. Forgive yourself for any stumbles or slip ups, it is doubtful that anyone will notice anyway.
I actually had a stage completely collapse during a guided meditation one time, I wove it into my presentation so that no one would break state, “you may even hear your negative beliefs crashing down…” No one opened their eyes or flinched and my presentation was a success because I stayed on my own agenda, got creative and kept on moving. No one can take the stage from you, even when it disappears.
If you know that presenting is important to your personal success but feel it’s impossible to do, I promise you can. If you feel you need a little help, enrol in our world class presenter training Influence Now and learn these techniques first hand, plus have a supportive team to back you.
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