Hiding in the bat cave…

Extensive research about the responses of the human brain and body under stressful conditions has changed my methods on training and coaching public speakers. I am at odds with the generally accepted belief that public speaking is hard, fraught with fear and stress!

Beyond coping with the “Fear of Public Speaking”

I now believe that most training process involving public speaking have it all wrong and perpetuate the myth (in a self-serving way) that public speaking is a scary fearful experience. If you believe the myth or are influenced to believe it is a scary fearful experience, then sadly it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy!

What is described below is a natural physiological response to real or perceived danger. How do you see the world? Is it scary? Does your fear of public speaking keep you from producing effective presentations? Do you want to retreat to your bat cave?

What is the “fight or flight response?”

This endocrine system is triggered when we are under threat and it is a powerful response to protect us from harm, giving our feet wings and our muscles power when needed.

The “fight or flight response” is our body’s primitive, automatic, inborn response that prepares our body to “fight” or “flee” from a real threat or from perceived attack, harm or threat to our survival.

Originally discovered by the great Harvard physiologist Walter Cannon, this response is hard-wired into our brains and represents a genetic wisdom designed to protect us from bodily harm. This response actually corresponds to an area of our brain called the hypothalamus, which—when stimulated—initiates a sequence of nerve cells firing and chemical release that prepares our body for running or fighting. This is also called an Amygdala hi-jack.

What are the signs that our fight or flight response, that an Amygdala hi-jack has occurred?

When our fight or flight response is activated, sequences of nerve cells fire and chemicals like adrenaline, noradrenalin and cortical are released into our bloodstream. These patterns of nerve cells firing and chemical release cause our body to undergo a series of very dramatic changes. Our respiratory rate increases; blood is shunted away from our digestive tract then directed into our muscles and limbs, which require extra energy and fuel for running and fighting. Our pupils dilate. Our awareness intensifies. Our sight sharpens. Our impulses quicken. Our perception of pain diminishes. Our immune system mobilizes with increased activation. We become prepared—physically and psychologically—for fight or flight. We scan and search our environment, “looking for the enemy.”

When our fight or flight system is activated, we tend to perceive everything in our environment as a possible threat to our survival. By its very nature, the fight or flight system bypasses our rational mind—where our more well thought out beliefs exist—and moves us into “attack” mode. This state of alert causes us to perceive almost everything in our world as a possible threat to our survival. As such, we tend to see everyone and everything as a possible enemy. We may overreact to the slightest comment. Our fear is exaggerated. Our thinking is distorted. We see everything through the filter of possible danger. We narrow our focus to those things that can harm us. Fear becomes the lens through which we see the world.

The Human Prime Directive: To Keep You Safe

The Flight / Fight Response

Fear of social death (perceived danger) or real physical danger, will trigger the ancient brain “to work to keep you safe”, initiating the flight or fight response. This is the “fight or flight response or as Dan Goleman labeled “The Hijacking of the Amygdala.”

When we experience performance stress—based on old beliefs, internal worry or external circumstance—one of three bodily reactions can be triggered, “fight or flight or freeze” response.

The Relaxation Response:

To minimize the damage from hijacking, it is important to practice patterns, which lead to de-escalation. From that hijacked state, that condition where your brain is flooded with electro-chemicals, you still have options. You do not need to stay hijacked — you still can choose actions. After all, these chemicals do not persist — they can dissipate in six to 30 seconds with some help.

This technique consists of taking three slow breaths to slow things down. Count silently and slowly to three when you breathe in (through your nose and push your stomach out rather than your chest. This allows you to breathe with your diaphragm and to get a deeper breath.

Breathe out on a slow count of six – through your mouth.

The rhythm goes like this:

Breathe in …….hold for the count of 5.

Breathe out slowly…….

Breathe in ……..hold for the count of 5.

Breathe out slowly…….

Repeat two more times

The more you practice the technique, in even mildly stressful situations (driving on the freeway, during an argument) the more effective it becomes, allowing you to relax and respond.

At Presentation Power we believe that there’s no one born as a ‘Public Speaker’ – just speakers who haven’t found their confidence yet . Whether you’re shy or intellectual; introvert or a extrovert, or looking for YOUR natural authentic public speaking style. If you’re someone with important message, who’s been avoiding the spotlight for too long, the Presentation Power workshop will reveal your inner public speaking power that you never knew you had. I promise you fun and high impact workshops that leave you brimming with confidence…