I am delighted to finally see the article that I wrote giving tips on presentation skills appear in the Hypnotherapy Journal. This publication is received by all the members of the National Council for Hypnotherapy and the articles written in it are always of great interest. I was very pleased to be able to write all about public speaking and presentation skills. I would hope hat over my years of acting, presenting and talking on both television and radio for the BBC I have learned somethings that I can pass on.
Here is the article in all it's glory and you can read the text underneath. If you are looking for help and support with any kind of presentation skill please do drop me a line at [email protected] or call me on 07980 233160
Public speaking and presentation.. an article for the Hypnotherapy Journal by Mark Powlett
Your hands are starting to feel sweaty. It begins with the palms as they redden and then it slowly spreads. You can feel a red glow crawling across your face and suddenly it explodes across your whole body feeling like the opposite to any wave of relaxation you have ever experienced. Your breathing quickens and becomes more noticeable to you as your heart thumps and beats out of your chest...and the organiser of the meeting you are speaking at hasn’t even introduced you yet!
Public speaking is always either near the top or at the top of most lists of common fears and phobias. As Hypnotherapists we may help to work with clients so that they can overcome their own fears or this may not be an area that you feel comfortable with. I know that I don’t have to experience everything that a client has gone through in order to help them. However, sometimes knowing a little about the issue and how to put things into practice really can help.
It is always wonderful to be able to speak about what we do and dispel some of the myths about hypnosis and hypnotherapy too. Meeting new people is always a good idea and it is great for business too of course.
I really do love working in my practice and helping my clients, and I would like to think that all of my previous experience in life is helping me with ideas, thoughts and stories that I can draw on in order to help put things into context for people and show them that they can move forward in their life.
Whenever I teach clients anchoring or help them visualise their “safe place” I am able to talk to them about my own and about a time that I felt more confident than any other.
My time of real confidence was standing backstage and getting ready to step out in front of an audience of 2000 people. Dressed and ready, a glass of water sipped and a toilet visited, I was absolutely ready to get started. I knew that although I had a rough idea of what was going to happen I did not need to worry about speaking to a script that I could get wrong and that there would be no one else relying on me. So, with only myself to worry about I knew there was nothing to worry about. I felt incredible and I couldn’t wait to bounce out on stage and begin.
Of course, I know that many clients look at me in horror when I explain this. But, changing your mindset and enjoying speaking to people works so well on many levels. Apart from being something that you really can enjoy, yes really, it can help your business and spreads the word about what we as clinical hypnotherapists do. The more people who understand and stop thinking that we make people cluck like hens the better.
It is of course very useful to be able to give tips and advice to clients who may visit needing help with their own fears of speaking in public. I work with people who are about to give speeches at conferences as often as those who have to deal with a presentation at work. In general it is likely that you will find yourself being sought out by clients who want help with nerves about work presentations, and quite possibly wedding speeches.
As we spend so much time helping to teach people to think in a positive way and visualise a future that they really want this is perhaps the most important thing to bear in mind. I used to train managers in presentation skills and I started off by being introduced to them as being a trainee in their company who was going to present for them and they would be assessed on the feedback they gave me. Of course I did everything wrong. I would stand in front of them shaking and then reach for a glass of water and shake so badly it would spill all over me. I once accidently spilt in on a projector when I was rather overenthusiastic in my shaking!
What I was trying to portray was that idea that we all get more of what we think about. It’s something you probably say to clients and it is the central phrase to pretty much any talk that I give.
When we start to think about standing up in front of an audience we can visualise ourselves being nervous and starting to shake with fear. We can imagine our voices cracking and speeding up what we say so that we can get through it more quickly, forgetting where we are and standing in an awkward silence.
So, of course the good news is that we can turn this around and start to think of it in a different and much more positive way.
Begin to imagine yourself before the presentation. Take a few minutes to compose yourself and take some deep breaths. Picture yourself walking out in front of your audience confidently and in a manner that shows that you feel you are in the right place. You can start to imagine yourself really owning the room. It helps to know that the vast majority of audiences are very much on your side. They want to hear what you have to say and are quite possibly excited by the thought of what they can learn. They are all sat there eager to hear what nuggets you are about to impart to them. Thinking that they are on your side is a simple change but can make a real difference. It’s not like you are walking out on stage at the comedy store for a midnight show! I used to do stand up comedy a long time ago and the fact is that despite what you may think; even a comedy audience want you to be entertaining and perform well. You may have heard of the idea of using your imagination to think that your audience are naked and this can help but I can’t really see how that works. I really want to see my audience clothed and know that they are on my side rather than filling my mind with disturbing images!
Know your subject..why we learn to fear standing up in front of people.
At school we are singled out and picked on, often out of nowhere. We can be called up in front of the class and made to look foolish. Do you remember being picked out by a teacher and made to stand up and talk about a subject that you just did know understand? It felt horrible didn’t it?! Fortunately education has changed and this is much less likely to happen but for many millions of people this was the first impression of any kind of presentation. Being put on the spot unprepared is unlikely to end well...especially when you don’t know the subject.
It sounds simple but a real key to speaking confidence is that you know what you are talking about. Some people can talk about anything, just witness the salespeople on television shopping channels, but for everyone else we should be speaking about something that we know. As well as giving the confidence that I am in the right place it means that I know I can wander off topic and come back to where I was. Personally I have a number of stories that illustrate points when I speak but I may not have an order that I talk about them in. I may not use all of the stories but knowing I have those chunks of information in my mind means that I can talk for a couple of minutes or longer about each one without needing to even think. People love to hear about things that have actually happened. I do give some background to the history of hypnotherapy when I speak but I know that when I tell the story of the wedding I went to where the Bride had toothache and I helped her turn down pain it connects to people in a much more positive and memorable way.
I also love getting people to join in. I always explain that I won’t be hypnotising anyone but they can try some things out and see how they get on. There are lots of things you can try and rather than tell you what to do you are probably best to pick out the little convincers that you use in your practice. This way you will be confident in what you do and know how you work them into client sessions. It’s not too difficult to scale them up into a little bit of audience participation.
Practice Practice Practice.
They don’t call it hypnotherapy practice for nothing. We are always learning and practicing builds your confidence and means that you are ready to go. It’s really important that you don’t just read out what you have to say as if you are reading from a book. It is fine to have some notes of course. I like to have a few notes with key words on them so that if I get lost I can use them. Having a sheet or small card with perhaps just ten key words helps and it doesn’t take long to run through what they mean and learn the order that you want to tell your stories about in. You can practice in front of a mirror, you could video yourself (even our phones have great recorders in nowadays) or you may want to have a go in front of friends and family. It’s always good to welcome some constructive feedback and I know I have run through what I considered to be a brilliant presentation in front of a colleague only for them to point out how I can make it much better!
The Water of life...pausing for breath.
When I used to train presentation skills I always spilt my water all over the place to demonstrate to people how nervous I was looking, but in reality if you are prepared and ready to go then the water is just there for you to take a sip from. It helps to keep your throat lubricated..but more importantly you can use it to give yourself a break if you need to take a second to think. If you think you are getting lost or need to take stock of where you are then just have a sip of water. The audience will wait for you and often it is a really good way to get their attention back if they seemed to be distracted. Taking your time, not rushing and pausing whenever you need to helps you to pace yourself and also helps the audience to comprehend everything that you are speaking about.
Slides, technology and PowerPoint.
I have to admit that I differ from a lot of people when it comes to using technology. Its fine to use a microphone if you have a large audience but if it comes down to using PowerPoint or anything similar I draw the line. I am sure that I could put together a passable set of slides. I could even get someone to design and make some slides for me and they could look incredible. Then the audience could enjoy looking at them and remember them. The problem is that I would be wondering what would happen if the slides didn’t work? I’ve seen enough presentations where the wrong slide is up or the projector bulb has died that I know it’s something that I don’t want to have to think about. I am much happier on my feet explaining myself and illustrating points with language and even the odd prop. Coming from a background working in radio for the BBC I was always taught that we should be “painting pictures with words”. It’s an excellent way to start to think about how you will illustrate your talk with words rather than pictures.
If you do decide that you want to have a PowerPoint or similar then make sure that you run through your presentation using it enough times to know what you would do if it broke down. If you are using bullet points on it to remind yourself where you are, then also have a written version that you can refer to in the event that something goes wrong. Keep your slides brief and not wordy. You wouldn’t want people just reading when they could be listening, and most importantly check beforehand that there is the correct technology available and arrive early so that you can test it all out!
Look at the audience, smile and make constant eye contact.
It sounds obvious and hopefully as hypnotherapists we already have a leg up the ladder when it comes to posture and body language and how to use them to your advantage. Stand tall and no matter how tall you are you will seem taller and more commanding. Look at the audience and make eye contact. I am always looking around the room and making sure that I make eye contact with everyone in the room. If there are people on more than one level then make sure you look up at them. When playing a theatre you always play to the balcony. Then they can see you whilst everyone below also thinks you are looking at them rather than up. The phrase “keep your chin up” certainly applies here, even if it’s not for the meaning that you thought.
The power of questions and Answers.
I love questions and answers. I worked in schools teaching and performing a few years ago and the questions that the children asked were always insightful and thought provoking and often the most entertaining part of my day. I know when I speak about hypnosis and hypnotherapy that many people will be watching and wondering and giving them the chance to ask questions mean that I can open up the session and see what direction it goes in. When you are speaking about something that you are confident you have knowledge of then it can be fun as well. If you are a politician you worry about questions because you never know what you will be asked about but as hypnotherapist you will know and understand the type of questions you will be asked and I find that I still love being questioned more than anything else. I often have a few stories that I have forgotten about that come into my mind based on questions and so I always have more things to speak about than I first imagined.
Don’t overstay your welcome.
Make a note of how long you are speaking for and make sure you don’t overrun. It’s always good to leave people wanting more. I have often been asked back to speak for longer sessions after being asked to do a shorter speaking engagement and I imagine that wouldn’t happen if I outstayed my welcome.
Remember that you can turn your fear into curiosity, instead of worrying about how you feel inside turn it around. Think about the people in the audience, and how they feel, wanting them to feel better, breathing controlling your tempo and .........................................don’t be afraid to pause.
You can find that speaking could become something that you really enjoy. Even during the time I spent thinking about and writing this piece I spoke to someone who had seen me to help with confidence and was letting me know that they really enjoyed speaking more than they ever imagined.
If I were to give you just one word to sum up what I think about speaking that word would simply be...