Instant Confidence: The Power to Go for Anything You Want by Paul McKenna PH.D. (2016)(2016)/index.html#calibre_link-48">SECTION THREE
CONFIDENCE IN THE REAL WORLD
Making Powerful Presentations
The fear of public speaking is now the largest phobia in the Western world. It usually gets installed at school where we are told to read in front of the class, and a teacher points out all our mistakes rather than reinforces how well we are doing. Other kids laughing and pointing assist in the installation, ensuring we are in a strong enough negative state that the association between fear, shame, embarrassment, and speaking in public has stayed with us until now, even if it hasn’t always stopped us from getting up and doing it.
“Ask yourself: if I had only 60 seconds on the stage, what would I absolutely have to say to get my message across?”
Yet there are only three things you need to do in order to feel easy and comfortable making powerful presentations in front of even the largest group:
1. Manage your state.
2. Know your content.
3. Speak with passion.
1. Manage Your State
Many years ago, one of Britain’s leading actresses came to see me. When she told me she was suffering from stage fright, I was shocked.
I said, “Hang on, you’re one of the best—how could you have stage fright?”
She replied, “When you get to my position, the pressure to succeed is even greater.”
It really struck me in that moment just how little confidence has to do with experience, and just how much it has to do with the way we use our minds. Someone else could have used their vast experience and history of past success to build an unshakeable feeling of ease and comfort; she had used hers to compound her fears.
In order to help her, I asked her to imagine that she was going to take a day off from the stage fright. I would be taking over her fear for her for the day. I then asked her what I would have to do to make myself feel frightened on stage the way she did.
Here was her strategy:
1. First, she would walk on to the stage and then imagine some people in the audience were critics thinking all sorts of harsh things about her performance, like “She didn’t deliver that line very well, did she?”
2. Next, her body would tense up in response to the negative internal dialogue and she would make some small mistake.
3. Finally, she would imagine the critics saying something even worse, like “Oooh—she’s past her best.” The more she imagined the critics’ response, the more real mistakes she began to make.
Although she had no idea what the critics were really saying about her, or even if they were really in the audience, by imagining them saying terrible things she was creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
As her self-talk was having such a powerful effect upon her performance, I decided it would be a good idea to use it to help her. After all, if she could imagine people saying horrible things about her, she must be able to imagine them saying positive things.
I asked her to imagine walking out on stage and hearing the critics saying all kinds of positive things in their minds, like “What a fine, experienced actress—what a marvelous performance!” If she did make a mistake, she would imagine them saying, “How well recovered—bravo!”
We simply rehearsed this in her mind over and over again until it became the new program. The next time she walked out on stage the new positive self-talk began to happen automatically.
And when the critics really did come to see the show, they gave her rave reviews!
Here is an exercise you can use to enhance your state any time you speak …
THE VOICE OF CONFIDENCE
Read through the exercise before you do it for the first time …
1. Imagine how your voice would sound if you were totally confident right now. Alternatively, imagine the voice of a confident, passionate person you enjoy listening to.
2. Now start to match your voice out loud with the confident voice inside your head.
3. Do it a sentence at a time. Imagine the confident voice inside your head saying something like “This is how I sound when I am confident.” Then say it out loud at the same time, doing your best to match the energy and tone.
For more practice, play the Voice of Confidence video.
It might feel a little strange at first, but you will soon start to feel completely comfortable speaking aloud in your more confident tone of voice.
2. Know Your Content
While it is certainly possible to fake your way through a presentation, I don’t recommend it. There’s something about having done your homework and knowing what you’re talking about that comes across as an energy of competence to your audience.
But knowing your content is very different from reciting from a script. In fact, the real benefit of knowing your content is this:
WHEN YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT, YOU DON’T NEED TO KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO SAY.
One of my own most profound learning experiences about this came many years ago. When I first started teaching NLP with Dr. Richard Bandler, the man who created the field, I would prepare my mental script thoroughly by planning out everything I was going to say and do in advance.
One day just as I was about to go on stage, Richard suggested that I teach a different module from the one I usually did. I must have looked worried, because he laughed and asked me how long I’d been doing hypnosis and NLP.
I told him I’d been doing it for nearly 10 years, and he laughed again.
“You have all the knowledge on this subject you need,” Richard said. “You just have to be in the right state and the words and ideas will flow. After all, if you were sitting talking with good friends about it you wouldn’t be worried, would you?”
He then asked me to remember a time where I’d done just that. When I started to feel that relaxed feeling in my body, he had me take that feeling with me as I imagined talking to the group, feeling relaxed and at ease.
Although I still didn’t feel completely ready, my intro music started to play and for the first time I walked on to the stage with nothing formally prepared. Not only was it one of the best classes I’d ever taught, it was the most relaxed I had ever felt in front of a group. Everything flowed beautifully from that moment on!
3. Speak with Passion
Even though we can speak about anything if we have to, whenever I am speaking publicly I make it a point to find an emotional connection with what it is I am going to be talking about.
The value of this practice became clear to me when I attended an awards ceremony called “The Pride of Britain.” People who had committed an act of extraordinary bravery or made a unique contribution to society were being publicly acknowledged. What was truly fascinating was that although many of the people receiving the awards had never spoken in front of an audience before, they were each able to totally captivate the audience, simply because they were truly passionate about what they had done.
To help me find my passion before I speak, I ask myself two simple questions:
What is the essence of my message to the audience?
What experience do I want them to have from listening to my talk?
Of course, passion is also a state—and like any state, you can create it any time you choose …
YOUR IDEAL PERFORMANCE STATE
Read through the exercise before you do it for the first time …
1. Think of a presentation you are going to be making in the next few weeks. If you don’t have one scheduled, think about any upcoming performance situation where you want to be at your best.
2. If it was entirely up to you, how would you like to feel during your presentation or performance?
Confident, passionate, and fun
3. Imagine a circle on the floor of any color. Fill it up with the feelings you desire. You can do this by thinking of a time you felt that way in the past or by using your body “as if” you already feel that way now.
I fill my circle with confidence by standing in a confident posture and speaking to myself in a confident tone of voice. I add in a sense of passion by thinking about a cause I am deeply passionate about until I can feel those feelings in my body. I remember a time when I was laughing and joking with friends, and put that in the circle for a sense of fun.
4. Step into the circle and let the feelings spread through your body. As you feel them, visualize yourself doing the thing you want to do. When the feelings start to fade, step out of the circle and “recharge” it with emotion, then step back in.
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you automatically feel the way you want to feel while imagining and/or doing the thing you want to do!
For more practice, play the Your Perfect Performance video.
As with any of the exercises in this book, you become what you practice—and the more you practice being relaxed and confident as you do the things you want to do, the more relaxed and confident you become!