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You have landed on this page because you want to build confidence in public speaking - drawing upon the tools and techniques of Neuro Linguistic Programming - NLP and Hypnotherapy - Anxiety Gold Coast Australia. Book a session with Abby Eagle. Online coaching available.
By Abby Eagle (2018)
A lot of people experience anxiety, and to varying degrees. Typically anxiety is about something that has not happened and what the person is doing is building a cinema in their mind of what might go wrong in the future. The more dramatic the internal representation, the stronger the internal dialogue, the bigger and brighter the movie then the more intense the feelings. In some cases the internal state may be strong enough to cause the person to freeze.
Which is pretty amazing when you think about it because if you can create an intense negative state then you can create an intense resourceful state. What you have to understand is that anxiety is not something that happens to you. You are the one who gives the meaning to the event. You are the one who create the images, the internal dialogue and the feelings.
And that means that you can learn how to move from the back seat into the drivers seat of your mind, so to speak – and create internal representations that work for you rather than against you. What I do with NLP and Hypnotherapy is to help you to access and mobilise your internal resources such that you can bring your confident future self into reality today.
As I said, anxiety in most cases is a feeling about a future event. It is not unusual for people to feel anxious about an event and when it is all over they wonder why they got anxious in the first place. My job is to map out the structure of how you create the anxious feeling. For each person it will be different.
In some cases it may just be about lack of experience. If this sounds like you, then part of the solution is to chunk the activity into bite sized steps and stages. Perhaps you are just trying to do too much too soon. If you had never surfed in your life do you think that you could just jump on a board and paddle out into a 20 foot wave? No, you have to learn a bit at a time, and slowly build up your skill level. Likewise, if you have never been on a stage and then you are asked to speak to a group of people, then one would expect that you might feel some degree of anxiety.
When people seek help in gaining confidence to speak to a group, what they are really asking for, is how to get into the zone, how to get into a flow state. Now a flow state is defined as an optimal state of consciousness in which you feel at your best and perform at your best. If the task is too small then you don’t get enough energy going to perform well. On the other hand if the task is way beyond your capability then you may go into overload and panic. The task needs to be a stretch but not too much of a stretch. When you set a stretch goal then your intention drives attention onto the task at hand such that you are compelled to focus in and concentrate. In doing so, the critical voice disappears, time goes away and you are plunged into the eternal now and you perform at your best.
Anxiety also tends to happen when there are just too many unknowns, for example. - Not knowing what is expected of you?
- Not knowing what you are allowed to do?
- Concerns about what might happen and what might go wrong.
- Concerns that you might forget what to say or not know what to say.
- Concerns about what others might say and do.
- Worried about how others might react or judge you.
- Worried about whether you will be liked or rejected.
The frames of mind that you bring to an event play a big part in whether you feel confident or anxious. What are frames of mind? Attitudes, values, beliefs, memories and expectations. For example, one University Graduate I worked with had scored top of his class and so he was in demand as a guest speaker at various functions – and even though he knew his topic inside out he felt anxious when speaking to a group of undergraduates.
Why? Because he wanted admiration from the audience. He was constantly checking to see if the students were giving him admiration. Not knowing what their blank stares meant he would freeze and make an excuse that he had to make a phone call, and thus leave the room.
The first step should be to build rapport – that is a sense of trust and liking for each other. There is an art to building rapport but essentially you are sorting for sameness, looking for something that you share, whether that be the way that you dress, the way that you hold your body, or the concepts and words that you use.
A frame that I find useful to get me into state is curiosity. Curiosity takes the attention off of yourself and puts it onto the other – and gets you asking questions that engage the listener. And as you engage members of the audience they begin to feel acknowledged and validated – and they will relax and warm up to you. You will see this on their face, the way that they move and how they speak back to you. I also find that playfulness is a useful frame of mind. It does not mean that I act silly but that I put aside seriousness and am looking for every opportunity to be friendly. In doing so you take the attention off of yourself and put it squarely back onto the audience.
So what are the frames of mind that you hold when you talk to a group? - Do you remember past negative memories?
- Do you worry about what might go wrong?
- Or do you allow yourself to be in the present and trust your unconscious mind to have you perform at your best?
I find that trust in self is a big one. In the context of anxiety in public speaking, typically what happens is that the person does not trust themselves. If they were with a few friends they would probably have no problems saying the right thing at the right time. Because in that context they trust their unconscious mind will know what to say and do.
Something else to take into consideration is the meaning that you bring to the event. What does the event mean to you? What is the significance of the event? And you have to remember that you are the meaning maker. Meaning is not inherent in an event. For example, two guys plan to go sky diving. One is thrilled at the thought while the other feels anxious. The meaning is not inherent in the event. We are the meaning maker – and that means that you can change the meaning such that it works for you.
As I said before part of the solution is attitude and we can model that from people who demonstrate confidence in speaking before an audience. One attitude that works for a lot of people, is the who gives an expletive attitude. Rather than be timid be demonstrative. Rather than be anxious, act aggressive. Rather than be shy act shamelessly. The audience wants you to be great. The audience wants you to be a star. The audience want to see you in a flow state.
The audience is ready to give you the prestige – you just need to do your bit and act it up a bit. Use your voice and play with volume, tonality, tempo, accents and pauses. For example, let’s say it was my first time doing a stand up comedy routine before a large audience. One approach is to take the Wimbledon Tennis Player attitude. Rather than acting shy and nervous, welcome in the energy. So take the fear that this guy is going to slam a tennis ball at you – and the whole world is watching. And rather than wimping out, welcome in the energy. Give it to me. Common on hit that ball. Is that the best you can do?
So if you have to face an audience then welcome in the energy. Take the attitude. Common give me your criticism, tell me you hate me, laugh at me. Is that the best you can do. Come on laugh at me. That’s better.
So how do you learn to build confidence in public speaking? Apart from booking a session with me, one way is to look for role models. Look for the best examples you can find and then model them. For example, can you imagine what it must be like to be a guest on the Oprah Winfrey show? Oprah is in her element. She has had plenty of time to relax. She owns the room. She is in control. And then you have the guest who is waiting in the hallway. There is guy standing next to him with a clipboard who will tell him when he should walk on stage to be in front of an international audience.
Most people would find this a little daunting. You could worry about all sorts of things. You could focus on the beating of your heart, your breathing, the sweat on your hands or you could do what one guy did. He got excited. He waited with feelings of anticipation not trepidation. On cue he literally ran out onto stage. Arms wide, laughing loudly. He sits down next to Oprah. Leans back with both arms out wide. He scans the audience with a great big smile on his face, laughing, looking around. Oprah also laughed with him. Then as he turned to Oprah he slowly settled down into a normal conversation.
What this guy did was to express his nervous energy and utilise it. To do this he would have needed to have given himself permission to do so. If he believed that it was not okay to be demonstrative then he would have had to suppress the energy in some way. And yet some people behave very differently when waiting to go on camera. I remember seeing a group of Australian Politicians standing in front of a camera at a news conference - they looked totally bored. As if to say, “What is the problem? We’re politicians.” So the meaning they gave to the event must have been quite different to the man on the Oprah Winfrey Show.
Eddie Izzard is an English comedian and like a lot of stand up comedians he makes fun of himself. So rather than waiting for others to criticise you – get in first – and say it before they do. Eddie Izzard is a transvestite and he draws attention to it. A number of popular comedians are gay and lesbian and they work that into their routines.
So rather than worrying that you might make a fool of yourself – play around a bit and be willing to make a fool of yourself – in this way you gain ownership. Even if you feel embarrassed – at least take ownership of it – rather than pretend that you don’t.
Roger Hamilton is a successful entrepreneur. He created the Wealth Dynamics Profiling system. At his events – at 9.00am in the morning he runs up to the stage, coat tail flapping in the breeze. He turns to the audience and shouts, “Good morning”. Then he puts his hand to his ear as if the response from the audience was too small and he shouts it again, “Good morning”. The audience shout back a good morning and then he powers into the program.
Some trainers will tell you that you need to start out slow and slowly engage the audience and then over time pick up speed but Roger just jumps straight in and talks at a million miles an hour – all day long.
You will find that the best presenters take a risk, they adlib and they trust their unconscious mind. For example, Robin Williams was outstanding. His style of comedy is the most difficult in that he has to adlib the entire show, so as you can imagine this could be quite stressful but he has developed a way to deal with the anxiety and get himself into a flow state.
And even though performing on stage is at one end of the spectrum and being in the board room is at the other end – the only real difference is that on stage you get the freedom to move around while in the board room you may be constrained into a chair.
Okay, so there is a video that you can watch on youtube. It is called, “Live at the Met”. There is a large audience and Robin Williams runs out on stage, arms wide, shouting, running backwards and forwards up and down and along and around the stage like a mad dog. He shouts a greeting to the crowd. His mouth is wide open. He makes whooping sounds. He takes big breaths. He brushes his hair back and tells the crowd that he is scared at the size of the auditorium and the size of the crowd.
In doing so he makes a self disclosure and takes the risk to express his energy and emotion. He makes big arm gestures. You can see that he is sweating. He is honest. His semantic gestures are often big but always precise. Every move makes sense. So as soon as he gets on stage he looks at the ‘cornices’, that is he looks all around the auditorium and comments on the walls, the ceiling – everything that he can see. As he gains familiarity with the space he takes ownership of it.
And from the moment that he came on stage he started connecting with people – with groups of people in different parts of the auditorium and also with individuals. He even connected with the camera operators and security officers. He gets a conversation going with individuals from all around the auditorium. Once he gets a laugh that gives him the positive feedback he needs to feed the creative process.
Robin Williams enunciates his words. He does this by opening his mouth as wide as possible so that he can articulate each syllable. He also uses pauses and periods of silence. He is willing to take a risk and in doing so he drives himself into a flow state. A flow state, otherwise known as the zone, is an optimum state of conscious in which you perform at your best.
At one smaller venue he jumped down from the stage and walked through the tables and commented on hair styles, clothing, and what the guests were drinking and eating. He brushed a woman’s hair, massaged a man’s shoulders and borrowed a woman’s fur coat and took it back on stage and used it as a prop to make some jokes.
Robin Williams makes an attempt to connect with each and every individual. So whether you are talking to a massive audience or you are in a conversation with a bunch of corporate executives in a boardroom, one of your primary skills should be in connecting with each and every individual.
So if you would like to overcome anxiety and build confidence in public speaking then contact me using the webform at the top right of this page. If you want to do a Skype session then we just need to work out our time zones. I am based on the Gold Coast of Australia – Eastern Standard Time.
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