Turning fear into food…

I spent a good part of last week working with a group of managers on their presentation skills. Our presentation skills workshop is called OWN THE STAGE and as the name suggests, enables managers to walk, talk, act and deliver presentations as if they owned the stage.

Anyway, I ran a new version of it last week and one exercise in particular proved very effective in helping them to change the way they approached presentations. Did you know that speaking in public regularly dominates the top ten list of fears in the US and UK? In one study I saw, it was the number one fear in the US and the number two in the UK (number one was spiders!).

This fear of talking in front of people seems to range from slight apprehension through to physical terror and serious body changes like a dry mouth or your tongue doubling in size as you try to talk. It is truly amazing what you can do to your body with the help of your imagination, isn't it?

This exercise uses your imagination too but in a way that breaks the link between fear and your audience. For those who need to know why, here’s some theory about how it works. For those who just want to know the exercise then skip the next bit and see below.

Your mind and body are capable of making amazing links between situations and emotional states (like terror, fear, nerves etc.). If you have one of these links set up then every time you see an audience or think about speaking to an audience, the emotional state arrives fully formed. The exercise below literally breaks this link and creates a new one. The new link joins fun, humour and mastery to your audience so that when you think of them you get a different emotional state (fun, control, laughter, mastery).

Enough theory, here’s the exercise:

(My thanks to Richard Bandler/Paul McKenna for this exercise:)


You’ll need a private space or somewhere that people don't know you (at first anyway).

Begin to imagine that you are in the body of a big cat (lion, tiger, puma, leopard etc.) and you are prowling around looking for something to eat. Begin to walk around as if you were that cat - strong, fluid, powerful movements.

You prowl over the ridge of some rocks. You are hungry and powerful. Just below you, in easy pouncing distance, are your audience - waiting.

You are just about to jump when you notice that behind and all around you are a gospel choir, ready to urge you on.

With a mighty roar, you pounce and as you do you hear the choir behind you singing at the top of their voice “Oh Yeah!”. Imagine yourself rising up 40 feet in the air as you fall on your audience saying inside your head “Your Ass is Mine!”.

Prowl around a few more times, imagining pouncing on your audience whilst roaring, hearing the choir….

I use this exercise to change my state before a presentation or at the start of a training - if you were to visit the gents just before I go on, you would find me prowling, roaring and practicing jumps in front of the mirror - it works every time!

And as for my group last week - after doing this a few times (and it is very funny to watch a roomful of managers doing it) one said to me that he could not think of his audience without laughing.

That’s right, I said, it’s just about turning your fear into food…

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