A Speaking Fear Relaxation Exercise That Really Works
So many public speaking fear exercises out there… which one to choose and which one is right for you?
A solution feels like a good fit when it exactly addresses the specific problem. In other words, you don’t just have anxiety, you have “public speaking anxiety”. If you apply a generic formula, you’ll get a generic result, one that’s just not quite right for you. So you abandon it and lump it in with all the other failed solutions.
I’m a specialist public speaking coach and I introduce my clients to a mindful breath technique I’ve developed for nervous public speakers. It works for speaking nerves and it works for dinner with your mother in law. It works whether you are a coach, therapist or CEO.
Breathe Your Way To Inner Calm
I call this special mindful breath technique, dum de dum daa: The Inner Calm Exercise. Below is a short MP3 audio recording of my voice and a quirky home-made video on how to breathe your way to inner calm with this public speaking relaxation exercise that really works.
Simply click the “Play” triangle below and you’ll hear me talk you through it. Make sure you turn up your sound button.
The Inner Calm Exercise MP3:
The Inner Calm Exercise Is The “Hit” of Every Workshop
It’s such an effective technique I offer it free to everyone. It’s the “hit” of my retreats, workshops and private coaching. Years later, clients contact me to exclaim over how it’s still changing their life. They use it before speaking, to help them go to sleep, to help them wake up and focus, to deal with moments of overwhelm and with difficult conversations of life.
And here’s a short training video demonstrating how to do it:
Public Speaking Fear Begone and Stay Gone!
To enjoy the full benefits, I recommend you practice it every day for 6 weeks and continue to use it on a regular basis. Pretty soon, your body and mind begin to associate mindfully taking a breath in and out, with taking emotional control. Make Inner Calm a daily habit and find a way to make it part of your daily routine.
If you prefer to have step by step help to stay on track with learning this new habit, try my Online Course called Confidence & Connection. It’s a 43 page eBook covering weekly public speaking confidence exercises to make your public speaking fear begone! It includes MP3 recordings of visualisation exercises to help you speak with ease and authenticity. More information on using the Inner Calm exercise is included.
Now you can take a big breath in… and out. Finally, a public speaking relaxation exercise that really works.
Not So Red Faced
I once worked with a woman who successfully avoided speaking to her staff en masse for 5 years. Just the thought of it was enough to produce a blood rush. She felt warmth and embarrassment spread across her face like a bushfire. She was sure she looked silly and bright red. She avoided situations that made her the centre of attention. A bit tricky as she was the owner of a small business. When we worked with a video camera, body language and slowing down, she realised her face was not noticeably red and she didn’t look as nervous as she felt inside. With proof and practise over the next few months, her fear went down and her confidence went up. She focused on her purpose in speaking and the people in front of her, instead of herself. Voila!
Now I love the adrenaline rush of relief when I’ve successfully gotten out of something as much as anybody. But avoidance is a good choice only for the short term.
Communication is a core life skill. You are going to be speaking for the long term. You might as well get on with feeling the fear and speaking anyway. Because running a service that makes a real difference, is going to involve you talking about it with more than one person.
Expand From One To Many
“But I prefer one to one speaking” I hear you cry! Many women in business declare their preference for speaking with one person at a time. They enjoy being up close and personal with just one client, colleague or friend.
One day you will have to leave the safety of the coffee nook to promote, influence and impress on a larger scale. If you excel at one to one then I know you can transition from one to many. It’s the same skills, just tweaked and practised to fit the new purpose. Trust me, I’ve helped hundreds of women make the shift.
The Fear To Fab Makeover
While many ways are touted as the answer to overcoming public speaking fear, after specialising in this area for many years, I reckon there are 5 fundamental speaking habits that shift even the most timid of women in business from fear to fabulous:
Anchor yourself with your speaking purpose.
Relax your body into a confident, powerful, natural stance.
Slow down everything. You will have presence and be present.
Transfer your attention from yourself to your listeners and their needs.
Don’t give the speech. Be the speech.
Learning To Speak Is Like Learning To Drive
Remember when you first learned to drive a car? You had to turn on the ignition, put the car in gear, check your mirrors, indicate and move into the flow of traffic. One day you are driving along and realise you haven’t thought about those individual steps. You did it unconsciously because it had become a habit of confidence.
And that’s exactly the same when learning those 5 Fear To Fab speaking habits.
The first level of learning is referred to as “conscious incompetence”. Doesn’t sound flattering, but we are all in the same boat when we learn anything new. As your experience increases, you move to the level of flow, fully present and in the moment. This higher level of learning is called “unconscious competence.” This doesn’t too flattering either, but I assure you, flow is good, very good!
In the same way as you effortlessly weave in and out of traffic; having conversations as it were with other cars, I assure you that public speaking becomes an effortless weaving, melding and merging of you and your audience.
Some people come to love public speaking so much, they’ve always got their hand up. The joy of new found speaking agility drives you effortlessly along a freeway, rather than kangaroo hopping in a back lane of obscurity.
Feel Fear Speak Anyway
Finally, to return to the fearful plea: “If I attend the public speaking retreat, will I have to speak?”
Mmm, methinks hanging out with people who actively embrace their public speaking fear at a retreat immersion is the classic “feel the fear and do it anyway”. Surviving the fear shows you can handle it and experiential proof builds your confidence.
At some point, public speaking fear passes away when you learn to let it go, just like my client with the not-so-red face. She now leads her weekly team meeting and is loving it. And so does her business and the ripples it creates, year after year.
You guessed it; there is nothing you can do about them.
But there’s quite a bit you can do about you.
I bring this topic up because “ fear of what people really think of you ” is such a recurring biggie for people who avoid speaking up in a public space.
Most of us have experienced this public paralysis. It’s a shocker and the quickest way to drain your self-esteem smoothie.
Why Oh Why Oh Why?
I could talk knowledgably about:
“Separation from the herd” anxiety (personal fave); or
“They’ll see I’m a fraud” anxiety; or
“I’m going to fail and ruin my entire career” anxiety; or
“The weight of expectations through all those eyes” anxiety; or
“I’m just not good enough, smart enough, experienced enough” anxiety;
but, I will not talk about them, again. We all know them well and I for one, am sick of them.
Sick of them controlling who I am and what I want.
Are You With Me?
If you are – keep reading.
The easiest place to start? Labels. Language is something you can control. Let’s drop “public paralysis”, also known as “ public speaking fear ” and all its dreadful baggage and instead choose something… attractive, powerful, energising.
I tried out many nifty names and phrases on the casting couch of change, but they sounded:
Too serious – no, I want to have fun!
Too new age – ooh, such self-important wisdom!
Too biiiggg – no, I’m not promising to save the world. Yet.
And My Winner Is:
“From Fear To Fabulous!” Yep and with that exclamation mark.
Why? It just makes me laugh. It’s over the top with a boa feather-ish. My whole body quivers with the joy of it. My husband says my shoulders give a little cheeky wiggle and back they go, chest out, big smile. It’s not just my mind that recognizes the good fit, but my body and spirit too. Energy returns with the right words.
I like From Fear to Fabulous so much I’ve decided to splash it about my website, add it to my logo and have renamed my enewsletter in its honour. It’s a clarion call to anchor and remind me of who I am and what I want. With no fear of judgement.
No more “crash and burn” or “public speaking fear” for you either. Adopt From Fear to Fabulous or choose your own inspiring, powerful words.
Don’t Believe Your Wild Imagination
What people think about you is always and can only ever be, a reflection of their own beliefs and values. Contrary to your wild imagination, other people do not have the power of x-ray vision to see all your flaws.
According to research, most people are thinking about dinner and sex at any given moment. So, count yourself lucky if they squeeze in a random thought or judgement about you.
Is the problem: “Fear of what people really think of you ?”
Or is the real problem, our own fearful belief that they must be thinking the worst?
You cannot control what’s inside other people’s heads, but you can control what’s inside your own.
I’ve just returned from my annual silent meditation retreat and once more am reminded just how naughty is the mind and flighty are the emotions! I know I’ll do anything to get out of sitting in meditation sometimes. A cup of tea is suddenly vitally important. Or perhaps the garden needs weeding. Anything really, to avoid the discipline of intentionally doing nothing but observing in silence and stillness. Geez, I’m not making an attractive case for meditation am I?
And yet, I return, again and again to this ever changing, vital practise. Because deep down, I know, it’s good for me on every level. Actually I love it, I just need a reminder of it’s WOW Factor now and again which is why I go to an annual retreat. Sort of like a “top up” to my personal practise.
Anyway, as a result of years of meditation I realised that a deep relaxation practise brings sooooo many benefits including calming nerves and clarity of mind. Gosh! Perfect for nervous public speakers!
Inner Calm is a 6 minute relaxation exercise I developed specifically for nervous public speakers and those who want to speak with greater clarity, presence and authenticity. Because when you are comfortable in your own silence, you can hear your Inner Voice. That’s your authentic voice, the one that gets ignored and forgotten. And it’s the one you can trust and the one that others truly want to hear.
Many people who avoid public speaking are fearful of their physiological response to fear, not the act of public speaking itself. In reaction to any kind of fear, threat, anxiety or stress, our bodies may respond with:
A pounding heart and pulse, sweating or trembling, scattered or racing thoughts, unable to think logically,
nausea or a feeling of passing out, desire to sleep or, run away, racing thoughts, often negative or anxious,
feeling surreal, disconnected or a blank mind, anger, agitation, aggression or panic and overwhelm.
These are commonly reported reactions to public speaking. They are also the same symptoms of panic, fear, stress and anxiety. To spend your life avoiding public speaking because of a fear of these symptoms is like shooting the messenger.
The good news is you can change your old fear habit by changing your psychological and physiological responses. I’ve created specially designed relaxation and visualisation tools to help you tap into your inner speaker. These include Calm Barometer(mentioned in a previous post) and the Inner Calm Exercise.
Inner Calm Exercise
To take control of speaking nerves and restore calm and clarity, simply practise the 6-minute mindfulness exercise, “Inner Calm” every day to build a habit of inner calm. It will help you to:
Manage nerves when you are about to speak or present
Gain an accurate insight of your current stress level
Get “out of your head and into your body”
Ground and centre yourself in your purpose
Think and articulate clearly with a coherent flow
Be focused, present and connected for the “big moments” in your life.
How To Begin
Begin by reading through the Inner Calm Exercise below and listen to my MP3 recording to hear how it’s done. This exercise simply involves counting the breath evenly from “1 to 10” for 3 rounds. Find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably and won’t be disturbed.
“Close your eyes, rest your hands in your lap, put your feet on the floor and let your body sink down into the chair. Take a light, even breath from your chest. Release gently. Notice how your body feels right now, the pace of your breath, your pulse, and the kinds of thoughts you are having. Take another light, even breath in and release it slowly on the out breath. Feel your body sink deeper into the chair, knowing it supports you. Know there is nothing else you need to do right now and nowhere else you need to go.
Now we begin the Inner Calm exercise by counting the breath evenly from 1 to 10… and we’ll do that 3 times…
Mindfully breathing in, 1, Mindfully breathing out, 1.
Mindfully breathing in, 2, Mindfully breathing out, 2.
Mindfully breathing in, 3, Mindfully breathing out, 3.
Mindfully breathing in, 4, Mindfully breathing out, 4.
Mindfully breathing in, 5, Mindfully breathing out, 5.
Mindfully breathing in, 6, Mindfully breathing out, 6.
Mindfully breathing in, 7, Mindfully breathing out, 7.
Mindfully breathing in, 8, Mindfully breathing out, 8.
Mindfully breathing in, 9, Mindfully breathing out, 9.
Mindfully breathing in, 10, Mindfully breathing out, 10.
And now, take a natural breath in and out, no need to count it, and acknowledge that you have completed “1 round.”
Repeat counting the breath from “1 to 10”, twice more…
And now to finish, I invite you to take a light, even, uncounted breath to complete the Inner Calm exercise. Become aware of your body sitting in the chair. Feel your feet on the floor and stretch out your toes. Notice how your body feels right now, the pace of your breath, your pulse, and the kinds of thoughts you are having. Notice any changes from when you began… Bring your awareness to the present moment, take a light breath in and out, open your eyes, stretch your body, and know you carry Inner Calm wherever you go.“
While you are doing this exercise silently in your mind, you may find your mind wanders. This is perfectly normal. Just gently bring your mind back to “1” and begin again. Don’t make a guess and start at “5” to get through the exercise faster! The more your mind wanders, the more scattered you are feeling. The more you are able to count your breaths from “1 to 10” in a complete round, the more inner calm you are feeling. Please know you cannot fail this exercise. You can only learn more about yourself, your current state of calm and how much control you have over changing it.
How did you go? Practise every day for long term results, insights and personal growth.
The key morsel of Scared Speechless is the clear and simple language explaining the psychology behind public speaking fear. It goes way beyond the standard explanation of “Your stress response can’t tell the difference between a sabre toothed tiger and an upcoming speech.”
Scared Speechless offers logical, down to earth and humorous explanations to help you understand why in the past you were scared of speaking and how to change it for the future using neuropsychology.
I was surprised at how good this book was because if you are anything like me, your first reaction to yet another “how-to-public-speak” book is yawn. I’d rather pluck my eyebrows.
Also, it arrived unsolicited in the mail from the publicist, so I wasn’t expecting much. I assumed it to be a typical over-marketed “How To Be Awesome On Stage In 1 Minute” hyped-up American rave.
Instead, I enjoyed Scared Speechless’ easy to read, straightforward words; the authors clearly want to generously help as many people as possible. It’s designed to be universally accessible to people of all ages and walks of life from young adults and up.
I picked up some useful gems from Scared Speechless, which I’ve already put to use in my workshops. I’ll only give you three so you’ll have to read the book to get the rest:
Practise your speech non-verbally (yes, mime!) with your body to express your meaning first. Then practise with words. Your body will remember your meaning and underscore your words with natural gestures. (Moving also helps you to “unfreeze” should this happen to you.)
Prepare your speech to be READ rather than SAID. In other words, write it out loud. (Ever noticed the difference when you’ve heard someone READING a speech as opposed to talking directly to you? Which is the more powerful?)
Use “clothing cognition” to your advantage, that is, dress to support your message. Wearing high-heels or bare feet will impact how you deliver and the impressions you create. (If you want to expand your delivery style, practise wearing different hats or shoes. A Police Officer will likely speak and behave differently to a Graphic Designer. As to whether it’s true or not, doesn’t really matter, it’s what you and your listeners BELIEVE.)
If you prefer a weighty academic tome of jargon and unpronounceable technical terms, this book is not for you.
Scared Speechless is down to earth, practical, fun and enlightening. A good read for nervous speakers on a quest to change their relationship to fear for once and for all.
It’s true! According to social psychologists, the Spotlight Effect is the tendency for people to believe that others pay more attention to us than they really do. Simply put, the Spotlight Effect occurs because we are egocentrically the centre of our own universe. And because we think we are fascinating, we assume, we must be fascinating to everyone else! However, everyone else is terribly busy being the centre of their own universe, so really, no one notices your bad hair day.
If you trip and fall, do you quickly look around to see if anyone has noticed?
If your shirt has a small stain, do you find yourself covering it up with your bag?
If you say something brilliant at a meeting and no one else comments on it, do you find yourself getting annoyed or doubting the validity of your contribution?
How did you go? If you answer any more than one “yes”, you are NORMAL. These everyday examples of the Spotlight Effect, affect all of us, some of the time.
Legends In Our Own Mind
Spotlights magnify and enlarge and what is under that lens appears… bigger. So big, that we are sure others will be able to see us in all our glory, good and bad.
People generally overestimate their impact on others. I see this often with clients who assume that everyone in the group or audience has superhuman powers of perception and can see how nervous / incompetent / unprepared / a fraud they really are. Not so.
Groups Not So Scary
Interestingly, when people are members of a group their attention is split between themselves as an individual and that of the whole group. Ever spoken up in a group and felt “ignored”? Or felt the pressure of “so many eyes” that your every move will be scrutinised? Again, not so. At least 50% of the group’s attention at any one time is focussed on the whole group, not on you. It’s not that your contribution isn’t valued, it’s that there are so many contributions for group members to focus on. You just can’t have all the attention all the time.
Nervous About Looking Nervous
Research has found that an audience does not notice you are nervous as much as you imagine. You are often the only one who knows. People routinely overestimate that their internal states (feelings and thoughts) are leaking out and that others can see. They become nervous about looking nervous and that others will think less of them.
It’s a bit like worrying about not falling asleep. The worry increases adrenaline, activates the stress response and you have trouble falling asleep. When people worry about public speaking nerves, adrenaline courses through, the stress response activates, generating sensations of fast beating heart, shortness of breath, constricted throat, feelings of panic, trembling limbs, shaky voice and so on. The fear of social judgement flags potential embarrassment, magnifying the Spotlight Effect to make speaking in public a bigger deal than it needs to be.
Your brain is plastic, which means that anything you have learned in the past can be unlearned. If fear is getting in the way of you achieving your potential, this article “Overcoming Your Fear” by Verity Chadwick at Neuronation explains how you can learn how to change it by changing your brain.
Give Yourself A Reality Check
1. Transfer your attention away from yourself to others. Remind yourself that the Spotlight Effect works both ways. You are not the centre of their universe; they are! Remember that in a group, everyone’s attention is split, so you will be doing well if you receive even 50% of their attention.
2. Shift and broaden your perspective by asking yourself: will I remember this moment in 5 years, 20 years, or at the birth of my first grandchild? And, will this audience group remember my presentation in 5 years, 20 years or at the birth of their first grandchild? I think you know the answer.
3. Listen and watch body language from your audience group when it’s feedback time. If someone says: “That was really good” and smiles warmly at you…. well, believe it. Notice if you habitually ignore positive feedback and focus on “the awful experience.” When we focus on the fear inside, we miss the valuable, character building, good stuff on the outside.
You Can Choose To Ignore The Spotlight Effect On You
Consistently speakers rate themselves as more nervous than what their listeners would rate them. Next time, why don’t you choose to listen to your listeners first, rather than the grandiose, fear-mongering, exaggerations generated by your personal Spotlight Effect?
Impromptu speaking requires a high degree of trust and willingness to let go of a fear of judgment, memorising, quests for perfection or “being right”. When speaking, your job is to let the story stream through its course, flowing around rocks or impediments in its path and trust your words will pour out juuuuust right for that moment. It is also called “speaking off the cuff” or “leaping without a net”. For some people, it is also a moment of public speaking fear, requiring specific coaching in just how to do it with ease.
Examples of impromptu speaking include: handling questions and answers at the end of a talk, being asked to contribute something at short notice, an invitation to introduce yourself to a group or new people or filling in for someone else “on the spot”.
I have 3 pieces of advice for easeful impromptu:
1. Prepare In Advance
2. Don’t Over-Think (KISS)
3. Only Talk About What you Know
1. Prepare In Advance
Impromptu speaking increases it’s fabulous factor by smart forward preparation. If you know you will be at an event requiring you to say a few words, well, take the time to prepare mentally, physically and emotionally those few words. The better your “headspace”, the better your confidence with words.
The key is to not rigidly memorise, but to trust you do know your material and prepare a strong foundation with the main points. Then simply adapt the content to fit the context of the moment. This keeps you fresh, real and credible. Impromptu literally becomes a dance of spontaneity while the structure holds you in place ensuring sense and relevance.
2. Don’t Over-Think (Keep It Simple, Silly)
One of the most powerful pieces of advice I can give you is to “get out of your head and into your body.” Fear and unhelpful beliefs (for instance, “I’m no good” and “no one is listening”), start in the mind and will stay there, making themselves very comfortable if you label yourself as a fearful public speaker.
Nervous anxiety is a normal physiological response to fear and presumed danger (for instance, sweating, feeling sick, fidgeting, going blank). Your mind generates a fear response if it presumes it’s under threat, even to a situation like speaking in public.
Did you know that your body’s response to excitement is very similar to your body’s response to fear? Try changing the language you use to describe yourself and your state: “I feel nervous about public speaking” becomes “I feel excited by public speaking.” Same response, different word.
You can also try:
Plant your feet on the floor and use a stance that makes you feel stable and strong. When you need to reground yourself during a speech, stop, take a breath and feel your feet on the floor. As soon as you are back in your body, you become present and relaxed.
Use a relaxation exercise like Inner Calm to breathe more evenly. When you feel fearful, you tend to breathe from the top of your chest in short shallow bursts – reinforcing the message to your brain that there is something to panic about. When your body perceives there is no danger and it can relax, your breathing will deepen and slow. So, show your mind it has nothing to worry about, and relax your breathing and limbs. Some people find it helpful to place their hand on their belly to remind themselves to breath slowly and evenly.
3. Only Talk About What You Know
If you are going to speak in public, it’s because you have something to say. You will run into trouble if you give a speech about something you know nil. If you don’t know enough, find out. Make it easy on yourself by only speaking about what you know. Consider what you do know about a topic, and speak from that perspective only. This builds trust, authenticity and confidence.
Rather than assume you have to be an expert before you speak in public, first plunder your own resources. You are the sum of so many years of experience. It’s easy to forget or underestimate the goodies you have within you. Just like many clients I’ve coached for job interviews, they often forget they have great skills, because they take them for granted and no longer value or even see them.
When you trust yourself to relax into easeful impromptu speaking, you will no longer need your notes.
Impromptu Trust Challenge Are you up for a challenge to trust yourself that you will always have something to say?
Try this now: take out a dictionary or book and just let the page fall open. Whichever word your eye falls upon… that is your word to talk about for 60 seconds. Pause and wait for a personal story that relates to the word. The key here is to not plunge in and pour out everything you know about that word in 20 seconds and then peter out with nothing left to say. Take your time, it’s not a test, you can’t fail. Give your listeners a break. You do not need to fill every second with words.
If this challenge is easy for you – great!
If not and you need to flex your impromptu speaking muscles this year, feel free to make an appointment to work with me via Skype or phone. I have 6 places left in my diary for private coaching for the month of March. Here’s the link for more information: Public Speaking Coaching Programs
Best wishes for a “hands-free” 2015. Geraldine
Woo hoo! Or boo hoo! You are invited to give a media interview. The “media” I’m referring to includes: print (magazines, papers), radio (phone, studio), electronic (TV, online, social media, webinars) and live (panels, forums, events).
Media interviews spread your message and do your marketing for you. Well, that’s the ideal outcome and often what is dangled in front of you. The reality often falls short and maybe just your mum will stay up to watch the 2am television interview or read the obscure Etruscan Vessels Quarterly magazine. But sometimes, a media interview will generate increased attention, sales and PR opportunities for your organisation.
I Didn’t Say That!
Media interviews are often set up as a series of highly structured and tightly controlled questions and answers. But not always. Here’s some tales of the unexpected which I’m sharing not to frighten you but to help you stay relaxed and alert:
Radio Interview – Recently I gave a short radio interview and in the preliminary phone call I was told the theme was famous people who suffered stage fright. Could I provide tips for handling nerves? Well… the interviewer only asked me about tips for giving wedding speeches; the area in which I do the least amount of work. I just scrambled along as best I could, live on air and survived, as you do.
TV Interview – A client was invited to be interviewed by a well known current affairs program. She turned up to find a camera operator and a wall which she had to talk to and pretend was a person. Luckily the camera operator was kind and patient.
Newspaper Interview – Once you’ve done a few of these you realise that nothing you say bares any resemblance to what gets printed. Do your best not to swear or reveal your mental health problems. Or even that you know what a mental health problem is, because you may find you have one when you read the article the next day!
Live Event Interview – A friend of mine was invited with 24 hours notice to speak at a football stadium of 50,000 in Bangladesh, plus multiple TV cameras. She was the only white face and the translator kept every one laughing. However, she wasn’t saying anything funny! My friend realised she had to let go of her nerves and fears of being misquoted. Every one apparently had a very good time and eventually, so did she.
Tips To Handle Media Interviews
Be organised and prepared – think about the ramifications of this opportunity and strategise how you can make the most of it. If you are organised, you will think and speak clearly and get your message across effectively. This is not the time to be star struck and rely on “winging it.” Find out if you can “proof” the interview before it’s released and how you can copy and distribute it yourself.
Research – read, listen or watch previous interviews by your interviewer to become familiar with their style and expectations. Observe how previous interviewees handled themselves.
Who, what, when and why – make up the structure of an interview. Make sure you can answer each. Ensure you have an expert understanding of your subject and are abreast of current hot topics.
You may receive a list of questions in advance – if so, practise answering them flexibly off the cuff; don’t memorise because the questions may change. If there are topics you won’t talk about, advise them in writing and remind the interviewer on the day.
Live TV, radio or online – remember to follow the host’s directions as they want you to be at your best. Aim to genuinely converse with the host in normal conversation, letting them lead you with their questions. You may enjoy yourself so much you forget this person is not really your friend! You must remember you are there to do a job and so are they… so watch what you say.
Stick to your core message – be grounded and clear about your purpose, which is why you have been asked to speak in the first place. Don’t divulge personal or irrelevant details about your divorce, weight gain or fears about handling media interviews… unless they are the topic!
Hone and practise your core message so that when you are asked about it, you will articulate who you are and what you offer with ease, authenticity and professionalism.
Prepare, Relax And Let Go!
You may find it useful to observe how I handle speaking to a video camera when I present my 3 Minute Video Tips. I use a conversational, natural style to suit my audience (that’s you!) and a specific video message: “Everyone can speak in public with as much confidence and authenticity as they do in their own lounge room.” Choose a style that is right for you, your audience and your message. In the meantime, if you’d like some professional help with handling your next media interview, contact me for private coaching.
Many people find it difficult to “just be themselves”, especially shy people at parties. Remember that feeling when you first walk through the door, confronted by a sea of unknown faces or backs? Should you stick around or should you run? Parties can bring up fear of being separate or rejected by the group. Similar fears surface when public speaking.
Basically, when self consciousness looms, people shrink with fear and disappear, or pump themselves up with a flashy veneer.
At parties, it’s frequently a case of one human shield meeting another human shield – no wonder it’s difficult to connect meaningfully with the room awash with air kisses.
Trust & Rapport
Recently I attended a women’s’ “drinks & nibbles”. (Yes, the dreaded “After Hours Networking” – see the related article “Un-Networking For Shy People”.)
The guest speaker was a funeral director and she explained the process of building trust and rapport with someone you’ve never met before. Her process can also be applied to creating heart to heart connections at a party.
Level 1: Surface chitchat about the party…Head nodding acknowledgement.
Level 2: Basic information exchange…Name, connection to host.
Level 3: Offering of safe opinions… Scanning for similarities. Longer eye contact.
Level 4: Exchange of appropriate personal thoughts…Standing closer, feeling safer.
Level 5: Opening up & sharing honest feelings…Authentic Connection.
If your party experience traditionally stays between Levels 1 and 3, then you miss the opportunity to “show yourself” and so does the other person. Self consciousness keeps you in its’ grip and it’s purpose is to keep you feeling safe. Whether you need it or not.
And hey hey hey! If you get to Level 5, you can consider yourself someone who just got comfortable with being themselves at a party, or at least, with one new person. Shy people and parties, who would have thought?
Dropping The Mask
Most of us hide behind a façade at some point. We do this because we don’t feel safe enough to be ourselves. We fear judgement, rejection or loss. Parties and public speaking can trigger a lot of fear! Here’s a quote from a client of mine who sums it up:
“ I can see now that speakers who rely on putting up a mask, rob their audience of the authentic experience of being with them. “ Elise Wynyard, Art Therapist
And so it is at parties. When you wear a mask, you rob people meeting the real you. I am not recommending you drop your guard and expose yourself to the whole wide world this afternoon.
I am recommending you try this technique next time you feel uncomfortable at a party, or when public speaking:
• Take a slow, deep breath and feel your feet on the floor.
• Take all the time you need to slow down, make soft eye contact.
• If you feel like it, introduce yourself to someone who willingly offers eye contact.
• Pause, smile, and allow space for words to arise naturally. And they will.
• If someone appears impatient and moves on because you didn’t enthral them within thirty seconds, let them go; you were never going to feel safe enough to open up and connect with this person anyway.
After The Party, Ask Yourself:
• Is it more satisfying to have connected authentically with one real person, or
• Is it more satisfying to have ten superficial conversations about the cheese?
It is not my intention to deride conversations about cheese. Cheese is a terrific starting point. The key is to find that starting point, a place of connection with another person. One real person, meets another real person and hey presto, you can be yourself, even as one of the shy people at parties.
Un-Networking is brilliant for shy people. It is the art of being genuinely interested in meeting new people with no expectations of selling them something.
I developed an early horror of cheese and chardonnay networking events, filled with drunken blokes with no home to go to, but a hellava lot of business cards to press sweatily into any willing palm.
Needless to say, I missed opportunities to expand and avoided “After Hours Networking” for years, until I created the concept of “un-networking”.
Step 1: Identify possible valuable benefits to attending the After Hours Event. Yes, Possible Benefits: • I need new clients and new ideas. • I could learn something from the speaker. • The cheese chunks are more nutritious than anything I’ve got at home.
No Perceivable Benefits: • So don’t go.
Step 2: If “YES, Possible Benefits”
Proceed with an open heart to the After Hours Event. Be aware of the Possible Benefit to you and then let go of the expectation that you will receive it. Yes, I know, that’s the tricky bit. But if it were easy, we’d all be sitting on top of a fluffy cloud with lots of dark chocolate.
Step 3: How To Let Go Of Expectations Script
(Say to yourself) “… My purpose in attending this event is because I need…(fill in the Benefit you are after.) However, the outcome, whatever it may be, is beyond my control. So I’m just going to show up, be myself and see what happens. And I can choose to leave whenever I want.”
Step 4: How To Be Yourself
Trickier than it sounds for our self-conscious, time-poor western society. This is an affliction affecting up to 50% of the population. Read the related article: “The Shy Person’s Guide To Party Survival”.
Step 5: Your Arrival
Take a deep breath, ground yourself and look around. Where is there movement and energy? Where are the awkward places? And most importantly, where is the food? Walk determinedly in your chosen direction. Frequently the best place for meaningful connection with new people is in the kitchen or by the carrot sticks.
Step 6: The Business Card Swapping Ceremony – Do’s & Don’ts Do try either of these: 1. Upon initial introduction, immediately offer your card. Politely ask if you may receive one of theirs in return. The beauty of this ceremony is that it immediately generates conversation – “Oh that‘s an interesting business logo, what’s the story behind it?” and so on. It also means you won’t forget peoples’ names thirty seconds after they’ve just told you.
2. If after chatting for a while, you decide that this is a person you’d like to get to know, as a buyer, seller or friend, either offer one of your cards or ask if you can have one of their cards. Generally, if you accept someone’s card, I believe it is good manners to offer one of your own. This creates a balance of mutual giving and receiving.
Do not try either of these: 1. Simply “plonk” your card in front of people to whom you are not currently conversing and then buzz off, distributing them like poison pollen.
2. Accept a card and immediately stuff it in your bag without looking at it. The Japanese believe the card personally represents you and as such, should be treated with the appearance of respect. Many of us feel the same way.
Step 7: Make New Friends, Connections And Business:
After all that effort to attend the After Hours Event, cocktail party, business breakfast or general smoozing, you might as well take it all the way. Write where and when you met the person on their card. If you enjoyed talking and made an offer, such as sending them some information, then phone or email them within 24 hours or so.
Frequently, your thoughtful and genuine follow up email or phone call makes Un-Networking very worthwhile. You just never know what interesting opportunities, ideas and people are out there.