Presenting and public speaking challenge #1 : Your energy
PRESENTING AND PUBLIC SPEAKING CHALLENGE #1: YOUR ENERGY
By your ‘energy’ I mean, how present are you while you present? How much are you here, now, confidently presenting and responding to your environment?
A message that is not delivered well cannot be received well. Until you get your energy humming as a presenter, everything else is pretty much whistling in the wind. You can have the most fabulous topic or slides, and unless you can carry it with your energy, it won’t be effective.
IT’S NATURAL, AND…
Although it is perfectly natural to be nervous or anxious (you’ll see below why this is so), it sucks energy.
Firstly, it unbalances you (your energy) as you focus on your presentation and the audience whist having an internal meltdown, trying to hide your sweaty palms and fervently hoping that you’ll stop blushing and generally wishing a hole would appear to swallow you up (which, by the way, never happens!)
Secondly, it also affects the audience if your energy isn’t balanced and flowing. Some of this might be registered consciously by the audience (because your message won’t be flowing) and some of it unconsciously. Science has shown again and again that our emotional states affect the state of those around us, even if they’re not aware of it.
Many people become afraid, nervous, anxious or even petrified even at the thought of public speaking or presenting.
The problem is that few people understand that these paralysing emotions are delivered by your limbic (or emotional) brain, which does not respond to rational thought or ‘positive thinking’.
But why do we even feel these feelings in the first place?
Although we are all different, here are some common underlying causes:
One of the main reasons for being afraid of public speaking is a lack of skill; simply not knowing how to structure, prepare, remember or deliver a presentation.
You’d probably also be nervous (or more likely, petrified) if you had to perform open heart-surgery or land a Boeing 747 and you had no idea how. Even if those examples are extreme, it illustrates the point that it is a natural response to be nervous, anxious or freaking out when you have to do something that you just don’t know how to do.
THERE’S A LOT AT STAKE
Even if no-one is likely to get hurt if you do a bad presentation (we hope), there is still a lot at stake for you. Most of us don’t like to be made fun of or feel humiliated or embarrassed about how we showed up. Yet, that is the very real risk you run when you show up to a presentation without the necessary skills to do it well.
That’s why being nervous makes perfect sense.
Now let’s take a look at why it is that you cannot simply talk yourself out of it.
WHAT YOUR LIMBIC BRAIN HAS TO DO WITH IT
Your limbic brain is the part of your brain that is more primitive than your logical brain (frontal cortex). It also functions much more on autopilot (doing things you’re not aware of, and things you don’t want to!), and does not really respond much to language (being told to stop doing what it’s doing.)
The limbic brain is the one giving the orders to your body to fight, flight or freeze.
When it thinks that it’s time to flight (get away) it floods your body with adrenalin and cortisol, directs the blood away from your brain towards your outer extremities, and it sends a clear signal that is it now time to GET AWAY!!
Of course, when blood flows from the brain, you’re actually less able to think clearly in that moment and more likely to get confused, forget your words or ‘waffle on’; you know, all the things you get to beat yourself up about afterwards.
WHAT YOUR LIMBIC BRAIN HAS TO DO WITH IT (CNTD)
YOUR LIMBIC BRAIN SCOFFS LOGIC
Trying to think your way out of a limbic response like that is like trying to convince your radio to play different music by talking to it; it’s just not going to happen, no matter how much willpower or positive thinking you do.
The following are examples of when your limbic brain might be activated:
- A fear of being exposed as being inadequate or inferior in some way, e.g. not [good | skilled | educated | intelligent | interesting | articulate | etc.] enough, or feeling inconsequential and not important or worthy enough to have a voice or opinion, of the “who do you think you are” variety.
- Unresolved past emotional trauma: having been made fun of, humiliated, shamed, threatened or hurt in any way for expressing yourself or wanting to express yourself, at any time in your life, and particularly childhood (the limbic brain never, ever, ever forgets)
The limbic brain gets activated when you’re threatened.
That’s why ‘boot-camp’ style training environments are not useful for learning something as challenging as presenting. Putting you ‘on the spot’, forcing yourself to do things that you’re not ready for and giving unskillful and hurtful feedback might sound good in self-help books and look good on reality TV.
In real life, however, it can be (and often is) very damaging, fuels a negative self-image and leads to shame and embarrassment.
All of this activates your nervous system even more into a ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response. As we said before, blood now flows from your brain which makes you actually less smart. You’re now even less inclined to be able to understand, retain or apply information and more inclined to make mistakes.
That’s why I adopt the opposite approach with all #FILWP events and private work.
JUST FORGET ABOUT IT? SURE!
In our fast-food, instagram, prescription-drug and ‘forward-looking only’ (or rah-rah, as I call it) coaching society, most of us would rather just sweep the past under the rug, forget about and get over it. The only problem with that approach is that it ignores and negates the way our nervous systems work.
THERE’S ONLY WAY TO ‘GET OVER IT’, AND THAT’S THROUGH
It is only by clearing up our emotional past in order to create a different future. Until we do, we’re simply putting icing on a mud cake (for memories buried alive don’t die) and the limbic brain will continue to create emotional havoc in our public speaking and presentation lives at the slightest notion of threat (however valid or invalid).
RELAX, IT’S THE 21ST CENTURY
Thankfully, it’s possible to permanently overcome (rather than suppress or try to ignore) your fears and insecurities about public speaking, for once and for all.
With modern Energy Psychology techniques this can be done relatively easily and quickly and no longer necessarily requires months or years of therapy.
Once you do that and learn how to structure, prepare for and deliver a presentation effectively and you build your confidence, your presentations just get better and better and you have more fun doing it – which rubs off on your audience. (You might even consider it a no-brainer.)
That’s why Energy Psychology and stress release sessions are a core part of the daily routines at ‘Fall in Love with Presenting’ courses. Even better, these techniques work without you having to reveal any personal information.
THINK THAT PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT? THINK AGAIN!
Contrary to popular belief, practice does not make perfect. Practice only makes permanent.