Do you fear public speaking? Are you willing to admit it?
I was thwarted by my private speaking hell for all of my career and vowed never to speak in public again when I resigned from a successful 30 year career.
Is this fear holding you back from presenting your best self?
Upon looking back, I can see a brave woman who suffered greatly and needlessly. Sure I did Dale Carnegie, Toastmasters and the exemplary David Griggs Beyond Words course, yet self-doubt constantly fed my already jangled nerves.
I now speak for a living. Why? Because I like it. I have learned to change my relationship to feeling nervous, all with the practice of mindfulness.
Guess what? We can’t control nerves, even the most polished experienced speakers are nervous otherwise there is an arrogance or no care factor present. No-one stands up feeling calm and relaxed immediately, it’s nearly not possible.
Mindfulness teaches us to embrace, accept and observe what is happening in the moment of speaking, without getting swept away in made-up stories inside your head.
The next time you are feeling anxious about a presentation or speech do these two simple practices to calm the mind and body.
If we can calm the body the mind will follow.
Choose an anchor for grounding
Let go of thinking and take three full conscious breaths, sighing on the exhale breath. Let it all go. Stay with the breath moving in and out of your body. Then bring your awareness into your feet and feel the ground beneath your feet focusing your attention there and feeling into the contact/pressure of sensation while you drop away from thought.
It is difficult to be thinking anxious thoughts at the same time as focusing your attention elsewhere. When we feel tethered to an anchor such as the breath or our feet, we start to relax the nervous system.
When you are feeling nervous what is it that is making you feel nervous? It’s the “what if” factor. What if I fail? What if I make a fool of myself? What if I forget what I am going to say? These are thinking traps full of negative thoughts. You have created an unknown future, or a virtual reality in your mind. A future that is imagined, and is catastrophic!
It is this thinking that causes us to be anxious and stimulates our nervous system.
Redirect your thoughts
Drop into feeling the whole nervous body. A sense of the body as a whole including the beating heart and sweaty palms. Breathe into the space of the whole body redirecting your mind beyond thoughts. Remember it is the thinking mind that fuels our nerves. Stay with this sensation of vibrating nerves as they will soon settle.
You can do these two practices at any time building up to the presentation. As I can vouch that thinking about the presentation will stimulate a nervous feeling and a whole lot of unnecessary suffering.