How to turn presentation nerves into an effortless performance

Presentation NervesI often work with highly competent professionals who want to rid themselves of the fear and panic involved in public speaking. What usually brings them to see me is a building feeling of anxiety about an upcoming presentation with all the associated physical symptoms of sweaty palms, tight throat, pounding heart and fast breathing.

Hypnotic intervention for panic responses experienced during presenting is very effective.
The goal for me is always to help the client bring their physical response back under control by uncoupling the negative experiences, beliefs and emotions they have associated with presenting. But, I don’t seek to take that physiological response away completely – here’s why…

When I’m not in the therapy room, I spend my time learning and performing trapeze. I know the incredible power of a natural shot of adrenaline before a performance. That anticipatory load of chemicals makes me strong, strong enough to perform moves that I sometimes struggle to complete in rehearsal. These chemicals also slow time right down, which allows me to have the luxury of ensuring my hand is positioned perfectly on the bar so I can execute my next move with confidence.

This heightened state of consciousness experienced by performers is called Flow. The term was originally coined in the 1980’s by positive psychology researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi when referring to an optimal state of performance. Flow is a state of focused or concentrated attention. In that state, time distorts – seconds stretching and slowing down during a performance or hours washing away in an eye blink as you’re completely immersed in a piece of work that you’re creating.

A ten-year study conducted by McKinsey found that top executives in flow are 5 times more productive than out of flow. In the New York Times bestseller, The Rise of Superman, author Steven Kolter explains that in the flow state the brain’s prefrontal cortex is shut down. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that houses the inner critic. When that critical voice is silenced we are no longer self-conscious or self-critical, and we are free to create and to perform.

Kolter describes the path to attaining flow:

The first stage of the flow cycle is known as struggle, which feels really unpleasant most of the time. Struggle gives way to release… and that triggers the actual flow state itself.

The key message here for those seeking optimum performance – whether that is in the athletic, artistic, creative or intellectual arena, is to realise that those early tingles which in the past you may have labelled as nerves, anxiety or fear are actually the precursors to flow. Those tingles are telling you that if you stick with it, holding a clear belief and vision of a successful outcome, that you can step through the doorway into flow where you can “be swept up by the river of ultimate human performance”.

So the next time you have the opportunity to take a risk by speaking up, I encourage you to recognise the opportunity that is available to you, the opportunity to step through the doorway and experience yourself in flow.

Image Credit: TOM81115 via Flickr

Move forwards by going back: the power of regression to change your present

Childhood regression

Working with memories within hypnosis is a very powerful tool to achieve effective change.  During early childhood, our minds are incredibly open and our neurological patterning is formed at this age.  Key events that occurred in early childhood can influence our behaviour, our emotions and our beliefs in the present without us even being aware of it.

One of my approaches when working with clients is to guide their unconscious mind to find often forgotten but influential memories.  This technique is widely known as regression.  Once the client has located the key memory,  we work quickly and effectively at re-contextualising the events of that moment.  This process allows the client to take more information from the event and make new conclusions.  By revisiting specific childhood events and seeing the bigger picture we create new neural connections which allow new behaviours and responses in the present.

To make the process of re-contextualising memories even faster and more effective I often use the technique called “creative mothering”.  As the client reviews the key event, I invite them to bring their present-day adult-self to be there with their child-self inside the memory they are working with.  The purpose of their adult-self is to serve as the source of support and resources that their child-self needed at the time.

In her recent exhibition, Imagine Finding Me, London-based photographer Chino Otsuka has literally inserted her adult-self into childhood memories using digital software.  The compositions presented in her exhibition could well be little vignettes from many of the client sessions I facilitate.

The results of re-contextualising these key memories are often noteworthy. I recently worked with a client who came to see me to overcome her feelings of failure.  I took her back to the originating memory which involved feeling ignored by a parent.  Once she’d been through the process of having her unconscious mind understand that being ignored was not her fault she was able to know that she was important and loved.  Getting in touch with the knowledge that she did matter allowed her to claim her self-worth in the present.

A week later she made a minor miscalculation while driving.  While everyone remained safe and no property was damaged, she did receive a fine.  She relayed to me that if that miscalculation had happened in the past, she would have fallen into a hole of self-criticism and shame from which she would have taken a long time to recover. After releasing and re-contextualising the key memory she was thrilled that she could easily say to herself, “Damn it, how annoying!” and get on with the rest of her day.

What patterns of thought or behaviour have you feeling stuck?  If enough is enough, then get in contact.  Let’s go meet with your child-self and discover what else there is for you to learn.

Self-confidence can increase your earnings by 56% p.a.

Improve Self Confidence

Confidence, its like money, we can always enjoy more of it!  A study conducted in 2008 has shown that confidence can actually generate additional income too.

The 25-year longitudinal study by Judge and Hurst at the University of Florida found that people who reported higher levels of self-confidence in 1979 earned $3,496 or 28% p.a. more than their peers with lower self-confidence.  They also found that over the course of the 25 year study this earnings differential continued to grow so that by 2004 these same, more confident, individuals were earning an additional $12,821 or 56% p.a. more than their less confident peers.

In addition, the researchers also found that higher self-confidence was correlated with better health.   When evaluated in 2004, participants with low self-confidence were 3 times more likely to have health problems that interfered with work than those participants with high self-confidence.

Throughout this year I’ve talked about a number of techniques that can improve your confidence.  The article on Power Posing showed you how certain physical postures can significantly change your body chemistry and how you feel.   In November I introduced you to EFT as an incredibly powerful tool that can release those less-than-confident feelings about certain situations.  And in May I showed that by using the power of visualisation you can give your unconscious mind a clear blueprint of a future confident you, changing your way of thinking, feeling and behaving for the better.

Should you wish to spread the sparkle of self-confidence amongst your near and dear ones this December, you can purchase a gift voucher for a session with me.  Click here for more details.  Wishing you a wonderful Christmas and a healthy, confident and prosperous new year.  See you in 2014!


Image Credit: SheerenM via Flickr

Shift negative emotions in minutes with Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)

EFT Circle

This month I’d like to introduce you to Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which is one of the other tools I regularly use with clients.  EFT is known as an energy meridian therapy, which means it is explained using the principles of Chinese Medicine.  Meridians are the subtle energy lines that travel the body and, according to Chinese medicine practitioners, when the energy is flowing well we enjoy good health, when it is blocked we experience ill health.  Clinical Psychologist, Dr Roger Callahan PhD, originally developed EFT in the 1980’s.  Stanford engineer Gary Craig further refined the technique.

A large number of studies have been made into the efficacy of EFT in overcoming problems such as anxiety, depression, pain and physical symptoms, athletic performance, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, weight loss, cravings and addictions.  I personally have used this technique and count it as a huge contributor to overcoming seven years of clinical depression.

EFT can be learned in just one session and can then be applied either on your own or in on-going work with me.  A third option is to experience the power of EFT in a group.  Click here to watch an introductory video on the basics of EFT and to find out dates and locations for group EFT.

Group EFT can be very effective.  A clinical study of college students at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila transformed the treatment group’s Beck Depression Inventory score from 23.44 indicating moderate to severe depression to 6.08 indicating the subjects were non-depressed after just four 90-minute group EFT sessions.

If you have any questions about EFT or the EFT Group, feel free to get in contact to experience this transformative technique for yourself!


Image Credit: Agustín Ruiz


Feel confident and powerful in just two minutes

How to feel confident

In her 2012 TED talk Amy Cuddy shared research that found the way we hold our body affects how we feel.  She found that just by adopting so called “Power Postures” for two minutes, the subject would exhibit a significant change in hormone levels.  Power Postures involve sitting or standing using the body in an expansive way – arms outstretched or on the hips, with a wide stance.  Wonder Woman’s classic pose is a perfect example of a Power Posture.

Wonder Woman's Power PoseTwo key hormones were measured in this research: Testosterone – the dominance hormone; and Cortisol – the stress hormone.  After two minutes of Power Postures, it was found that testosterone levels increased by 20% and cortisol levels reduced by 25%.  Conversely, when subjects adopted low-power poses for two minutes – hunching over, shrinking down and crossing arms, legs or ankles – their testosterone levels reduced by 10% and cortisol levels increased by 15%.

In my consultations with clients we take this mind body connection even further to create specific physical gestures that allow the body to gain access to states of power and confidence for particular situations such as public speaking, job interviews and important meetings.  Can you imagine how great it would feel to know that you could instantly access the confidence with which you hit a tennis ball in your leisure time when you need it for a crucial meeting at work?

Using Power Postures is a first and easy step towards taking charge of your physiology and biochemistry and making them work for you.  This is a technique that you can use today to improve your feelings of confidence and power.  Before your next meeting or in the lead up to a presentation I encourage you to use this – although you may want to strike that Wonder Woman pose in the privacy of the bathroom rather than the boardroom!


Image Credits:
Header : Llima Orosa via Flickr
Wonder Woman : Amazon Archives


Cultivate dreams into reality

People who’ve worked with me or spent time with me will recognise one of my signature questions: “How will you know?

How will you know when you’ve achieved your goal?

How will you know when you’ve made that change?

How will you know when you’ve left that habit or behaviour behind?

The answer to this question is termed the Evidence Procedure – it’s the proof to yourself that you have achieved your result.

Imagining and describing with visual and auditory detail (the things you’ll see and hear around you when you achieve your goal) and feeling the feelings that you’ll feel when you are in that moment of achievement primes the unconscious mind to rehearse your end result.  The simple act of asking this question already begins the process of implanting this future vision in your unconscious mind, bringing it to life, and therefore planting the seeds of its fruition.

In addition to giving your unconscious mind the blueprint of the future result you wish to achieve, research has found that visualising the future also increases your propensity to invest in it.

A Taiwanese study[1], published in the British Journal of Psychology, examined savings decision of two groups of participants.  The first group was primed by a visualisation exercise where they were asked to visualise their future in four years’ time.  The control group were asked to visualise the present.  After the priming visualisation exercise the two groups were presented with 42 sets of binary choices between receiving a sum of money in the present, or a larger one a week later.  Participants primed with future imagery were statistically more likely than the control group to wait for a larger payment in the future than to accept a smaller payment now.  The future-primed participants were willing to delay a monetary payment in the present to receive a higher payment of a compounded weekly interest rate of 11%.  The control group would only delay gratification when the compounded weekly interest rate reached 15%.

The results of this study suggest further benefits to goal setting and mental rehearsal of the end result in addition to setting the direction of the sailing ship of your unconscious mind.   It seems spending time visualising the future also makes you more likely to delay short-term gratification for the longer-term dream.

What results have you created in your life by using future visualisation techniques?  I invite you to share them in the comments below.


[1] Cheng,Y-Y., Shein, P.P. and Chiou, W.-B. (2012) “Escaping the impulse to immediate gratification:  The prospect concept promotes a future-oriented mindset, prompting an inclination towards delayed gratification” British Journal of Psychology, Volume 103, Issue 1, pages 129-141.

Image Credit: mike epp  via Flickr