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

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