Category Archives: Overcoming Fear

How to L.O.V.E. Public Speaking

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Long ago I lost count of the number of people who have said to me “I HATE public speaking!” But what if I told you that you could learn to love public speaking?

If you fear or loath public speaking and avoid it at all costs, you may be missing out on opportunities to promote your business, progress your career or share a few words about a special person at an important occasion such as a wedding or a funeral.

Like anything, the more often you speak in public the better you get at it, and the better you get at it the more you enjoy it. You may still experience nerves and that’s okay because nerves are completely normal, they mean you care. And you can learn techniques to help manage your nerves and get those butterflies to fly in formation.

But before you do that, you need to think about why you hate public speaking in order to be able to turn that around. So here’s my 4 step process to help you to L.O.V.E. public speaking:

LISTEN

The first step is to really listen to your thoughts, your feelings and your self-talk. What do you think about when you think of public speaking? Is it triggering memories from childhood when the kids in your class laughed at your presentation about your pet cat? Or maybe your thoughts are based on someone else’s experience; you may have learned that public speaking is scary or uncomfortable because that’s how a family member felt about it. Next listen to how you feel. Deep down in your heart, what do you really feel about public speaking? Often we can get our true feelings mixed up with our thoughts and with our self-talk.

So the final step is to listen to your self-talk. What do you tell yourself about public speaking? If you tell yourself that it’s hard, that you hate being the centre of attention, that it’s embarrassing and that you’re going to make a fool of yourself, etc. then that’s likely to be the case. You are reinforcing and attracting this outcome every time you say these things to yourself (or other people). So the first stage is to listen and notice your thoughts, feelings and self-talk.

OPEN YOUR MIND

All you need to start to change your mind from hating public speaking to loving public speaking is to open your mind to the possibility of it. Could you doubt your beliefs? I often do an exercise when coaching a client to help them shatter their limiting beliefs. We’ll start with their current belief which is usually something like “I don’t believe I can be a confident presenter.” And then I’ll ask them if there was any possibility of doubting that belief. All it takes is a tiny little shift to enable them to start to move away from that limiting belief and towards a more positive and helpful belief.

You choose all of your thoughts and beliefs. You also choose your attitude every minute of every day – you choose how you approach things and you choose how you react to things. So doesn’t it make sense to choose beliefs, thoughts and attitudes that help and not hinder your life? By choosing to open your mind to the possibility that you could enjoy public speaking (or least not hating it would be a start) you will have a much better chance of turning that hate to love.

VERBALISE AND VISUALISE

The next step is to share all of your thoughts and feelings either with someone else or write in a journal. Get them all out where you can start to properly address them. It’s important not to continually focus on the negative statements but instead take time to turn them into more positive statements and start to focus on helpful and encouraging affirmations. For example, change “I’m going to mess it up” to “I will prepare and practice so that I can do my best.” Or “The audience will be bored” to “I’ll make sure I understand the audience so that what I say is relevant and interesting for them.”

The second step in this stage is to use your mind to visualise yourself in your desired state, feeling poised, calm, self-assured and speaking confidently. This powerful technique is used by successful people from athletes to entrepreneurs and will have an incredible impact on the way you feel about public speaking.

EMBRACE OPPORTUNITIES

I’ve written many times about the fact that you can’t get better at public speaking without actually doing it. You need to embrace opportunities to speak in public but you don’t have to start with a 45 minute keynote in front of an audience of 3000. Perhaps start by challenging yourself to share your point of view or ask a question in a meeting. Or join a public speaking group such as Toastmasters International or my Monthly Masterclasses where you get a chance to speak in a safe and supportive environment. You could volunteer to give an update on your work at your next team meeting. Or go to a networking event where you have an opportunity to deliver your 1 minute elevator pitch.

Whatever steps you take, make sure you prepare, practice and give yourself lots of love and kindness beforehand and afterwards. Use the 4 step L.O.V.E. process and learn to love public speaking – I can (almost) guarantee it will build your confidence, open up new opportunities and bring wonderful experiences into your life!

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_

Professionals Don’t Get Nervous… Do They?

Image - Mel Sherwood2

‘Everyone gets butterflies but it’s the professional that gets them to fly in formation’ – Author unknown

Last week I had the pleasure of singing in a fabulous show that raised money for Leukaemia Care. A cast of around 40 performed four shows over three days to wonderfully enthusiastic and supportive audiences and I was honoured to have shared the stage with a group of incredibly talented singers and dancers.

However, I haven’t sung on stage for a few years and I found my old insecurities rising to the surface to the point that it was going to impact on my performance and my enjoyment of the experience. These insecurities began when I was around eight years old; someone said something to me about my voice which I took to heart and it impacted on my dream of performing as a singer to the point that I didn’t sing solo in public until I was in my twenties. Despite the fact that I had years and years of singing lessons, it was harder for me to get over my fear of singing than it was to learn how to sing! Eventually I pushed past my terror, got comfortable being uncomfortable and went on to sing professionally for several years which I feel is one of my greatest achievements given how big my mental barrier was.

Over the years through my training as a performer and other personal development work I have learned how to manage my nerves; however, that doesn’t mean I don’t get nervous and I don’t know many professional performers and speakers who have no nerves before a gig. The trick is to be well prepared and learn to control and use your nerves to enhance your performance.

Last week when I noticed the negative thoughts I was having and the physical symptoms such as shallow breathing, tense muscles, constricted throat and an overwhelming feeling of dread, I realised that it would only get worse if I continued to focus on it. And I had a job to do. So here is how I managed to calm myself and get my butterflies to fly in formation in order to give a great performance:

  1. Quiet Meditation
    I took some time to sit quietly and concentrated on relaxing my body, especially around my throat and neck. On each out breath I said the word ‘release’ in my mind which helped to ease any tension I was feeling.
  2. Visualisation
    As I was sitting quietly I visualised my body relaxing and releasing; then I started visualising myself on stage giving a great performance. I took the time to imagine every detail from the costume I was wearing, to my fellow performers, to the stage lighting, to the audience enjoying themselves and applauding afterwards.
  3. Affirmations
    Whenever a negative thought came into my head I would replace it with a positive affirmation such as ‘I feel calm and confident’ and ‘My voice flows easily and effortlessly’.
  4. Warm Up
    To ensure my body and voice were able to give the best possible performance I did a full body and voice warm up which included arm swings and various stretches as well as singing exercises and tongue twisters (If you’d like a copy of my vocal exercises, please email me at results@grow-your-potential.com and I’ll be happy to send it to you)
  5. Choice
    I could have continued to dwell on how nervous I was feeling which would feed the feeling and make it more difficult to perform or I could choose a more helpful attitude. About an hour before my performance I went into the bathroom, looked in the mirror and gave myself a good talking to. I made the choice to relax and enjoy myself and put on a great show for the people who paid good money to see it.
  6. Smile
    Smiling has been scientifically proven to make you feel better; it reduces stress-inducing hormones and releases mood-enhancing hormones like endorphins. So I looked in the mirror and gave myself a big smile, and I continued to smile in the dressing room, in the wings and on stage. And guess what? The audience smiled back – they loved it!

Often when people see me perform or speak on stage they are surprised that I get nervous. But that is because when I am on stage I focus only on giving the audience what they paid good money for and I never allow my nerves to impact on my performance.

I’m not sure what total amount the show has raised for Leukaemia Care but it is expected to be in the vicinity of £10,000. I’m so pleased I didn’t let my nerves impact on my ability to be involved in such a worthwhile project, and as a result I also benefited from the chance to work with a group of fantastically talented individuals who made the entire experience an absolute joy.

Are you allowing yourself to miss out on opportunities due to nervousness or anxiety? Do you long to express yourself and share your message but find that fear is holding you back? I know the feeling of being crippled by your nerves, I know that there are numerous ways to overcome your nerves and I know the amazing feeling that emanates from conquering your nerves. So if you know that you are not reaching your potential due to fear and nerves, I urge you to seek help to manage it so that you can get out into the world and share your message and your talents like so many (nervous) professionals before you.

If you enjoyed this article, please leave your feedback by clicking on the Leave A Reply link and don’t forget to share it with your friends and colleagues.

And if you’d like some further hints and tips on communication skills, follow me on Twitter @Grow_Potential or go to http://www.grow-your-potential.com

Feeling the Fear and Making A Difference To Last Year

Mel Skydiving

This is a guest blog post by Philippa Linane of Decision Happy. Philippa’s work is based on the best-selling book ‘Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway’ by Susan Jeffers, which had a significant impact on my life when I first read it in the early nineties. I implemented the principles as I pursued my dream of becoming a professional actor and singer and have used affirmations and other empowering techniques throughout my life to overcome my fear, step outside my comfort zone and help achieve my goals (including jumping out of a plane – yes, that’s me in the photo!) 

We are now three weeks into January and I wonder how you’re getting on with your plans for 2014. How is this year going to be different to the past? Have you made plans? Are you moving forward with them? Or are you letting fear hold you back? 

Philippa’s blog post will provide you with food for thought and some techniques for feeling the fear and making a difference to last year – enjoy! 

Mel x

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As we enter another year full of good intentions and plans to get more out of this year, I wonder how you are going about doing it. What is going to be different this year to last year?  I am not necessarily meaning huge life changing events; I am talking about day to day things that could be working better for you, the small steps that can lead to a bigger life. For example, we could pay a bit more attention to our thoughts and actions and put some practises in place that become a way of life as per the principles of the book ‘Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway’ by Susan Jeffers. These techniques can enable us to better handle whatever life throws at us.

Fear keeps a lot of us from doing many things, whilst for others it is the driving force behind them doing it. It can hold us in a place of pain or a place of power. I once lived in a place of pain and nervous energy, until I came across ‘Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway’ and practised the tools and techniques. Gradually I gained in confidence and self-belief and my life started changing. From choosing a pair of glasses for myself to getting a new job and travelling alone to and around Australia. It didn’t stop there and it will continue as it is a lifelong process.

Everything we do and achieve is born out of how much confidence and self-belief we have. Understanding how we hold fear is the key to pushing through it and growing each time. You see, the fear doesn’t go away, we just gain a little more confidence each time. Quite often another fear arises, which we have to overcome if we want to grow.

So how do we push through our fears?

Whether you believe in yourself or not, act ‘as if’. The more you act ‘as if’, the more you become the person you want to be. Whatever your limiting belief is, identify the opposite of that and affirm it. For example, if you are having a troubled time, use the affirmation ‘it is all happening perfectly’. If you are feeling weak and unloved, use the affirmation ‘I am powerful and I am loved’. If your relationship with money needs to improve, use ‘I have a great relationship with money; I am responsible and I manage it well’. If you are afraid to speak up, use ‘It is safe for me to speak up; I am clear and speak kindly’. Ensure that the statements are in the present tense and keep them positive. Repeat these affirmations like a mantra – write them down, stick them on doors, mirrors, desks, etc – until they become second nature and actually come up as positive thoughts when you need them. Choose and use whatever affirmations work for you.

Get in touch with your inner chatterbox; start catching your negative self-talk and turn it round by asking yourself ‘what if’. What if it could work? What if the negative belief isn’t true? What would I be doing? How would I be behaving? And see what comes up for you.

Look at the pay offs for staying stuck. When you are in your comfort zone nothing changes – life may not get any worse but it is unlikely to get better. Think about the pay offs for you. Are the pay offs for staying stuck bigger than the pay offs for moving forward?  Or not?

Are you taking full responsibility? I am not talking about working and paying the bills; I mean for everything.  Try spending a week being blame free, of others and of yourself. If something isn’t working, ask yourself where you are not taking responsibility. Think about how else you could look at this issue and gain another perspective. Attitude is everything, change your attitude and you can change your life.

Philippa Linane
Life Coach and Licensed Trainer – Decision Happy

For more information about Philippa Linane, click here.

If overcoming your fear of public speaking is one of your goals for this year, click here to find out how easy it is to go from fearful to fantastic!