What Accupuncture Taught Me About Public Speaking

Last week, I was at the doctor's office getting my second acupuncture treatment for a shoulder injury. The first treatment went well. I enjoyed the stillness as the doctor silently inserted the needles along my arm and neck I expected to feel a sharp jab. But I didn't feel the needles. It sounds hard to believe but you really don't feel much. It felt relaxing as I sat there hooked up to electrical stimulation for about 20 minutes. The following week I had another appointment and this time the doctor was very chatty and loud. He inserted a needle in my neck like the last time but this time I yelled out, "Ouch. That hurt". What was going on? The doctor kept talking. He probably felt more comfortable chatting with me but I preferred the stillness to the conversation. He left while the acupuncture did the work. When he returned, he was quiet as he removed the needles. Ahh. No pain.

I pondered why it hurt the second time and realized that he wasn't centered, in the moment, in the zone, or on me. He was focused on his verbal chatter. It made me think about public speaking. We can give the same presentation and be good one time and off our game the next time. While there are factors such as time of day, the audience, the room temperature, the venue-these are excuses. A professional speaker can rise above it all. I think we lose our momentum, the magic, the impact when we change our focus. When we turn our focus inward on our insecurities, nervousness, or the bad day we had it's like walking on pins and needles. We lose focus when we forget the reason we're speaking is to make a difference, an impact on other lives. Just like the experienced doctor who talked throughout the procedure, when we have a monologue with ourselves instead of speaking to the audience, it can feel like that jab in the neck. Public speaking is not about running our mouths. It's about connecting. It's about conveying a message. It's the meeting of minds and hearts in the words and in the silence.

Fear of Public Speaking Series: Focus on the Breath

Public speaking doesn't have to evoke fear. Breath deeply. When we're in a fear state we tend to hold our breath.  Psychologist Roger Wolger once said something to the effect of " Anxiety is an interruption in respiration." To work through fear, breathe deeply. Focus on the breath.

15 Tips to Conquer Fear of Public Speaking

July is Freedom from Fear of Speaking Month. Summer is a good time to take a public speaking class, get a coach and knockout fear of speaking. Here are 15 tips to help you become a confident public speaker.

  1. Get over yourself Fear of Speaking - Nervousness is being self-centered. It's not about you-it's about them. The audience wants you to succeed.
  2. Focus on the breath - Breathe through the diaphragm of belly. Take 5-10 deep cleansing breaths.
  3. Prepare and Rehearse - Practice out loud and time your speech. Videotape yourself. You don't look as nervous as you feel.
  4. Set an anchor - Remember a time when you were at the top of your game. Get the feeling. Press your index finger and thumb together and anchor it. Press your fingers together right before you speak.
  5. Affirm your success - Overwrite negative programming by writing positive statements and say them to yourself. "I'm confident." "I can do this."
  6. Arrive early - Mingle with others and you'll feel like you have friends in the audience.
  7. Visualize your outcome - Create the outcome you want in your mind. Imagine every step of your presentation until the outcome is exactly the way you want it.
  8. Transfer your nervousness - Squeeze a small foam ball in your hand.
  9. Make contact with a friend - Look at a friendly face and smile. You'll feel you are supported.
  10. Plan a recovery strategy - Imagine your worst scenario and plan how you'll handle it in advance. Humor works great.
  11. Take time to pause - Stop for 3 beats of silence at the end of as sentence. You'll be able to catch your breath and think.
  12. Make your fear smaller - Imagine your fear as a fiery ball. In your mind's eye, shrink it and move it far away.
  13. Express your passion - Get excited and involved in your message or story and pretty soon you'll forget yourself.
  14. Meditate - Ten minutes of meditation will calm and focus your mind.
  15. Work the room - Release energy through moving to different parts of the room and using gestures. You'll feel energized.

What are your favorite tips for conquering fear of public speaking?

Do You Have a Public Speaking Anchor?

Imagine you're sailing. You find a spot where you want to go snorkeling. You drop an anchor and you dive off the boat. You enjoy your underwater adventure as you experience all kinds of marine life. You know when you're ready, the boat will be waiting for you. But what if there were no anchor? The boat would drift away and you'd be left on your own to tread water. It's no different with public speaking. Many people fear speaking because they don't know how to anchor themselves. As their presentation drifts along they become more nervous. In this video, you'll learn about simple public speaking anchors you can use to start speaking with confidence.