Thursday, September 22, 2016

What does your more evolved, future speaker self look like?

Fight-or-flight syndrome (sometimes called fight-flight-freeze for the reactions it prompts) is normal and nearly universal in public speakers...and everyone else facing a stressful situation. It's evolutionary behavior, or, as I like to say, it's the sign that your caveman brain has taken over, shutting out the functioning of your higher-order brain, more recently evolved.

For public speakers, therein lies the problem: You need your higher-order brain to think and speak in front of an audience. So of course it shuts down just when you need it most.

You know that I and others recommend developing a regular mindfulness meditation practice to counteract fight-or-flight syndrome. When I was listening recently to a mindfulness lecture by Tara Brach on stress and everyday nirvana, she talked about one tactic for counteracting stress responses in everyday situations: imagining what your more evolved, future self looks like.

So speakers, let me ask you: if public speaking is stressful for you now, what does your more evolved, future speaker self look like?

To get you started on your thinking about this, let me share some of the words that my clients use to describe this in my 1:1 coaching sessions or in group workshops. Perhaps you'll find some inspiration here:
  • calm
  • eloquent
  • expert
  • smooth, well-planned delivery
  • awake and aware
  • confident that I can deal with what comes 
  • ready to answer questions
  • relaxed
  • commanding attention
  • able to deal with interruptions smoothly
  • enjoying being in front of the room
  • accepting of praise
  • in command of my content
  • knowing where I might trip up, and having a plan to work around that
  • appreciative of the other speakers and the audience
That's just to get you started. What would your list look like? 

This can be a powerful exercise for setting goals for yourself as a speaker. Sometimes in my workshops, I ask participants to do a similar exercise, in which they choose one word to describe themselves as a speaker today, and one word that, to them, defines "eloquent." Cate Huston said of this exercise and its results, "My talks were extremely well received, something which I attribute significantly to Denise’s help. In the workshop, I defined what eloquent meant to me as 'poised', which is exactly the word a conference organiser used to describe me on stage."

The point here is that your speaker self is an evolving self, or should be. Envisioning yourself as a more evolved speaker is part of the process of making that come true.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Sigurd Gartmann)

Join me in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 20 for a new workshop, Add Meaning with Metaphor: Improve your Speeches with the Most Powerful Figure of Speech. It's a pre-conference workshop at the Edinburgh Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference, designed to help both speakers and speechwriters use this powerful tool. You can register here for just the workshop, the conference, or both.

No comments: