The Confident Performer By Dr David Roland

Book Review By Speaking Coach Geraldine Barkworth

“I’m not fitted to give concerts. The audience intimidates me, I feel choked by its breath, paralysed by its curious glances, struck dumb by all those strange faces.” CHOPIN

“The Confident Performer” shares this stage fright quote from pianist Frederic Chopin and was the reason why I bought this highly focused little book. So many of my public-speaking clients sound just like Chopin, yet never go near a piano or even a stage.

The author, David Roland, is a performance psychologist. He uses this book to specifically teach mental preparation techniques for any kind of performance including dance, song, theatre, music and sport. The number one biggie for most people, stage fright, he covers particularly well. He includes two excellent scripts to build a habit of relaxation before performance (and life), both autogenic and progressive muscle relaxation.

I like these words from David Roland on page 80: “The very nature of performance requires the artist to expose himself publicly, which usually leads to the experience of stage fright – something every artist needs to manage. Being open to evaluation by an audience is something that does not occur in most other occupations.”

These two points ring true for people seeking confidence in public speaking. Fear of exposure and of being judged by others can be paralysing (or as Chopin said,”struck dumb”). And yet, without taking the risk of exposing one’s true self, there is only facade, a barrier between you and your audience. And they feel it. Listeners miss out on the real you, you miss out on them and everyone misses out on the magic.

You can lessen the risk of stage fright by tapping into the power of mental rehearsal. Psychophysiogical practise transforms fears and hopes into practical reality.

To end with Dr Roland’s quote from cellist Jacqueline du Pre: “Walking on stage – the recognition, the applause, the rumble of interest from the audience when I appeared. It never occurred to me to be nervous. I thought of the audience as a group of friends who had come to hear me play, and I found that very moving. I just played, and enjoyed it. Thinking about the notes would have spoiled the enjoyment. the work was all done beforehand.”

(David Roland has since recovered from stroke trauma and more about his brain-training work can be found on his website: )

(c) 2016, Geraldine Barkworth, authentic public speaking coach. This review is the opinion of the author only.

Video Review: Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are, by Amy Cuddy

I share Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are by Amy Cuddy, for conveying confidence, credibility and authority with body language more than any other TED Talk.

This is a brilliant 20 minute talk from Amy Cuddy for understanding how to make simple physiological changes to transform the way you feel and how others see us. Perfect for those who need to lead, influence, get a message across or feel more confident in any situation.

TED Talks: Ideas Worth Spreading.

© 2015, Geraldine Barkworth, public speaking coach. This video review is the author’s opinion only.

Fear Of A Difficult Conversation

 Client Case Study: Marcia, Executive Coach

Marcia, an experienced and inherently wise executive coach, presented to me with a drop in self confidence. She felt the fear of a difficult conversation. She worried about not being able to stand her ground. 

How We Unravelled Fear Of A Difficult Conversation

The situation triggering the fear, was the potential loss of a long term corporate client. Critical self doubt was festering in her imagination and Marcia was assuming the worst. After a coaching conversation and visualisation, Marcia’s presenting issues were:

  • Fear about security: “How will I live on reduced income?” and “Will I be able to replace this valuable client?”
  • Fear about what people think: “My client may have lost his respect for me and passed it on to the rest of his team.”
  • Self doubt: “Maybe my work has lost its edge and I’m no longer relevant?” and “Why am I fearing and avoiding this conversation rather than just handling it?”

The Aha Moment

I asked Marcia a couple of questions:

  1. “How do you feel about asking for what you want?” and;
  2. “Is it really true that your client no longer wants your services?”

Aha! For Marcia, these questions quickly opened the door to new possibilities, a feeling of release and tapping into her old confidence. The fear of a difficult conversation vanished.

Together we worked out a plan. For Marcia, the most important part of this plan was to recognise and counter an old self sabotaging pattern. Instead she created a unique process to tap into her inner wisdom and confidence whenever self doubt crept in.

She recognised her assumption about her client was merely an assumption. We prepared her for her next client meeting with role play practice. Marcia left the session with a new self confidence, one born of having survived a minor crisis.

So What Happened Later?

Marcia emailed me the next day. Marcia explained that her client had just telephoned during a conference to ask her advice. He stated how much he valued her and set up a time the following week to discuss a new direction in working together. Remarkable timing!

That meeting flowed beautifully into new opportunities; a reflection of Marcia letting go of her fear of a difficult conversation about her worthiness and the power of intention. Marcia knew that something had shifted within her. Once again she stepped into trusting herself and her ability to ask directly for what she wants.

* The client’s name has been changed to protect privacy. If you are ready to refine your authentic voice and inner speaker, contact professional speaking coach Geraldine Barkworth to have a fun, fearless and confidential conversation of your own.

© 2012, Geraldine Barkworth, authentic speaking coach. This article is the opinion of the author only.

Should I Sit Or Should I Stand?

Should I sit or should I stand when I present to a group? Believe it or not I get asked this question regularly. For those of you who are thinking, “Pish! What a question!”, there is a lot more going on here. The decision to sit or stand sends a non-verbal signal about your intention to establish authority, power, attention, intimacy, connection and relationship (or not).

A big demand or request of your group needs a big presence from a Speaker “willing to take a stand.” So, STAND UP! An informal group, especially a small one where people can’t hide in the crowd because there isn’t one, needs a Speaker who can build a trusting relationship, suggesting “I’ve been in your shoes, we’re in this together and I know the way out.” So, join the circle and SIT DOWN!

Here’s a 3-minute video about when to sit or stand:


3 Scenarios Doomed To Fail

  • Imagine yourself announcing this as the Speaker as you sit cross-legged on the floor: “I want you to take back your power now!” as your audience sits above you on chairs.
  • Imagine yourself trying to build rapport as the Speaker standing and waving your fist in the air: “Scream this out now… no, no, no!” to a small group of 7, seated unconfident women who’ve never met each other before.
  • Imagine this and it really happened to me about 25 years ago: I went to a poetry reading (I know, I know) and an indulgent young man read his banal drivel about unrequited lust while lying on the floor with his back to us listeners. Mind you we sniggered and yawned and he didn’t notice a thing.

None of these scenarios will work as intended. Your choice to sit, stand or lie down needs to be congruent with your message to make a powerful impact and inspire the right kind of action.

Sit To Present When:

  • You are speaking to a small, informal group.
  • You purposely need to focus on building trust and rapport first.
  • You want to draw people in, like story telling, sharing a “secret” or personal revelation.

Stand To Present When:

  • You intend world domination! Well ok, let’s call it leadership and authority.
  • You wish to direct all energy and attention on you and your message (“all eyes front and centre”).
  • You want to fill the space, creating dynamic movement with your whole body.

What You Can Do

  1. To fit a formal situation or to formalise an informal one (like a rowdy group) – STAND UP.
  2. To fit an informal situation or build intimacy – SIT DOWN.
  3. You can always switch from sitting to standing during a presentation. It adds variety, energy and emphasis.
  4. Trust your gut. Sometimes it feels right to stand and sometimes, to sit. Just don’t lie down on the job.

Above all, don’t  follow “expert advice”,  including from me. Do what feels right for you in that moment. Sitting or standing – pish – it’s a bigger question than it seems!

© 2012, Geraldine Barkworth, authentic speaking coach. This article is the opinion of the author only.

End With A Bang Not A Whimper

About 90% of my clients struggle with ending their presentation on a powerful, memorable high note. It seems  the open and the middle get all the attention, while the end is an apologetic tack on – “Oh yeah – sorry – this is the bit where I ask YOU for something…”

The Eternal Struggle

Western society struggles with both letting go (death) and asking for what they want (assertion).

Whoever is speaking at any given time, is the Leader of the Moment. And that includes one to one conversations as well as formal presentations to a group. Listeners take their cue from the Speaker… otherwise how do they know when it’s their turn to speak, when to ask a question or if its time to move on?

Even more significantly, how can listeners / clients trust what you are saying or follow your advice, if you don’t appear to trust yourself? Your non verbal communication speaks more powerfully than your words.

Apologetic Whimper

“Trailing off” affects both the speaker and the listener, not to mention your career. In particular:

  • Your listeners look to you for cues as to what to do next. If you don’t lead, someone else will take over.
  • Your message or conversation gets dissipated, lost in the melee of fading umms, ahhs and sad darting eyes. It is your ending, not your message that will be remembered unfortunately.
  • Your self confidence suffers when you finish on a hesitant quaver, reverberating through your voice to your inner core beliefs about your ability to get what you want and to be heard.

Memorable Bang

  • Before you structure your talk, decide on the purpose and outcome you want for you and your listeners. HINT: Being clear about the outcome and your purpose is VITAL to end well.
  • State your intended outcome at the beginning of your presentation. The rest will then flow in a smooth, logical manner toward that outcome and your listeners will join the dots and know what to expect. In other words, Listeners will see the point if you spell the point out.
  • If you feel yourself meandering, just stop right there. Take a breath and look around. Take your cues from your listeners. Ask them if you are unsure: “Is that clear? Do I need to add anything else?” In other words, have a conversation with them.

Quite often, when people struggle with an ending, they have delivered a monologue, based on the assumption that they are solely responsible for delivering everything perfectly and they will be judged accordingly. It’s a heavy burden… no wonder many of us start to falter at the end of a presentation / conversation.


Ending anything is about letting go. Easier said than done I know. Learn to “let go” of your words and trust they will be received with the good intent with which you send them. This is a good point on which to finish the last blog for the year. The theme for next year is “Shut Up and Let Your Body Talk”.

© 2011, Geraldine Barkworth, authentic speaking coach. This article is the opinion of the author only.

Prepare To Speak!

Countdown Steps To Prepare For Your Next Presentation

I’m often asked, “What can I do to best prepare to speak?”  I recommend getting out of your head and into your body. This means, prepare yourself emotionally, physically and mentally weeks in advance. Or if it’s a big deal or event, prepare months in advance. Take the time to get very clear about your purpose and message.

When we feel emotionally tense, our bodies follow suit and tense up. Tension, particularly relating to stage fright, manifests itself in the chest, shoulders, throat, jaw, head and stomach for many people. This results in a kind of “holding oneself in” paralysis. A bit like a rabbit in the headlights – there you are speaking in front of a group and you whisper to yourself – “If I don’t move and look like a chair – they’ll forget I’m here”. Doesn’t work unfortunately. And you aren’t a rabbit.

Tension can also result in a “blank mind” and a disconnect from yourself and your audience. And “head spins” can come from a lack of oxygen (breathing too quickly from your upper chest and not being grounded, so slow it down and feel your feet on floor). It’s interesting that issues relating to the “head” figure so highly when it comes to fearing public speaking. The remedy I recommend is to: “Get out of your head and into your body”. I love this phrase; you’ve probably noticed I use it a lot. It really is a simple counterpoint to speaking nerves and tension.

Follow this countdown to prepare to speak:

Some Weeks Before Your Presentation:
Practice using the Calm Barometer and the Inner Calm Exercise daily to build a new calm habit – follow the links below to these exercises. (These are not quick fixes but a long term solution to retraining your body’s reaction to tension.)

Some Days Before Your Presentation:
Visualise yourself speaking with ease in front of your audience. Consciously choose to relax your traditional tension spots. See yourself taking your time and using the physical exercises written directly below…

The Day Before Your Presentation:
Raise your shoulders to your ears, hold, and release, letting your shoulders gently drop. Repeat twice more. Then, hug yourself tightly, just like you are holding yourself in with tension, and release, throwing your arms generously open, kind of like you are ‘hugging the world” – (I know, I know, it sounds dicky in print, it’s better at my workshops.) These exercises open your chest, face, airways, shoulders and tummy, releasing tension and awakening intention. Go for a walk and stop thinking about your presentation. Daydream. Physical exercise helps you regain perspective and breaks obsessive thoughts. Really, life goes on. Will you remember this presentation in 5 years time? And, will anyone else?

Directly Before Your Presentation:
Take a deep, even breath from the base of your stomach and release evenly. Feel your feet on the floor. Gently roll your shoulders back. This opens your chest, drops your shoulders, opens your throat and magically gives you a confident posture. Imagine the top of your head is suspended by a silken cord and the rest of your body follows effortlessly. (Thank you Alexander technique.) Use your Calm Anchor if you have one and embody your personal strengths.

Directly After Your Presentation:
Rather than go straight back into your head and do a vicious deconstruction of every mistake you made during your presentation – just don’t go there right now. Your adrenaline is pumping and what you need to do is reground yourself so that you continue to be fully present with others – answer questions, accept invitations, make decisions, network and so on. Consciously let your breath flow evenly and let your body take care of dissipating your stress hormones.

The Day After Your Presentation:
Make sure you have been for a walk or engaged in some kind of relaxation activity to switch your brain off and reboot your system. When you have surfaced, it’s time to evaluate you and your presentation constructively:

  • How effectively did you handle nervous tension this time?
  • When were your listeners most engaged with you?
  • How might you do the same presentation again?
  • Knowing what you now know, how might you help yourself prepare to speak next time?

When you give yourself the gift of generous time to prepare to speak, you’ll be able to handle speaking tension before, during and after, sooo much better. You’ll also be able to focus on your message and purpose with calm clarity, allowing you to captivate your group with authenticity and presence every time you speak.

© 2011-17, Geraldine Barkworth, authentic speaking coach. This article is the opinion of the author only.


Are You Scared of Using Microphones?

There Is A Fear And It’s Called: Microphonebia!

The symptoms include sweating, a dry mouth, a blank stare and a squeaky voice.  Some people regard public speaking as a fearsome pursuit – hand them a microphone and it turns into a phobia.

Why does this simple metal device inspire so much horror in so many?

Would it be so scary if it were rainbow coloured with streamers hanging off the end? Would you then be able to hold yourself back from grabbing that microphone to sing, “We Are The World” and get everyone waving their hands in the air like they just don’t care? There’s no way you could ramble and go blank with that much love in the room.

A microphone is a magical device.  It takes sound energy (your voice or instrument) and transforms it into electrical energy.  This electrical energy can then be amplified or recorded, so that everyone can hear you.

And I guess that’s the scary part.  What if you don’t want everyone to hear you? The amplification makes your voice bigger than you, potentially takes it beyond your control. And equipment can be unpredictable – what if it makes that awful screeching sound, or your voice booms out something inane. Ah, why are we so complicated?  Why so many fears?

Fears are often imaginative and based on worry.  One way to deal with microphonebia is to drag it into the light and examine it with keen scientific detachment.  Let’s break it down into known facts:

Microphone Facts

The clip on shirt mike or the madonna mike (headset) are the least invasive mikes and you can just speak naturally.  Be careful with expressive hand movements and don’t knock it flying when you make a dramatic point.  Make sure you are wearing a belt or pockets for the power pack.

A lectern or floor mike is the most restrictive as you are stuck behind a large immovable object.  Great if you want to hide or if you have a lot to read.  Not so good if you don’t want to be mistaken as a character out of The Thunderbirds.  Find out in advance if you can unhook the microphone from its stand and if so, practise unhooking and using in advance.

A handheld mike with a cord is great for practising your skipping, while a wireless handheld mike is easier to use.  However, it means you only have one hand available for notes, props or waving that hand in the air.

What Could Go Wrong But Probably Won’t

Simply turning up earlier and practising can alleviate microphonebia and most things you worry about. Knowing exactly how to adjust the microphone height, how to switch it on or even knowing where you will stand, will free up your mind for concentrating on being with the audience rather than being with the equipment.

To avoid getting lots of blowy, sssyyy sounds with a lectern, floor or hand held microphone, aim to speak 5 – 10 cm across the top of the mike, not directly into it. Practise with a carrot at home. The carrot will never laugh at you of course, only with you.

If the microphone screeches, there may be another mike switched on nearby causing interference (switch it off) or you may be standing in front of or under the sound system speakers (move around until all is quiet).

Asking for help is a good idea – do it quickly and smile at the audience, don’t ignore them. They will wait if you are honest and gracious.

If you feel anxious about using a microphone, prepare in advance:  Take 3 deep breaths. Now simultaneously, imagine yourself using the microphone with ease while you are breathing deeply and calmly.  Practise this visualisation a few days ahead of time.

If someone hands you a microphone unexpectedly, try this: Hold it away from your face, stay still for a moment, take a deep breath, connect with your audience with your eyes, and when you lift the microphone 5 – 10 cm from your mouth, remember, it’s only a carrot.

The Microphone Is For The Audience

As much as you may fantasise about looking good on stage in tight leather pants and screaming fans, the microphone is not there for your benefit.  It is there so that others may hear you without having to lip read and so that no one will go home, bereft of your wisdom.  Who are you to deny them?

Well all right, a microphone does benefit you too.  If you’ve gone to all that trouble to put together a speech, argument, case, submission, idea, you need the right people to hear you, and the right equipment to make sure they hear it loud and clear.  Otherwise, what a waste of your time, effort and fear.

As a speaker, you have the opportunity to wave a powerful magical wand to transform the hearing of mere mortals.  Don’t let microphonebia hold you back any longer! Step forward onto the stage of your life and speak!!!  Wave that microphone in the air like you just don’t care!

© 2009-2017, Geraldine Barkworth, authentic speaking coach. This article is the opinion of the author only.