Presenting Magically With NLP
Recently, I was at a Connecting Women meeting www.connectingwomen.nl
This is an organisation that holds a meeting once a month and gives the opportunity for women from all kinds of backgrounds to come together to share, network and inspire each other. As a member I was given the opportunity to showcase my NLP work. I had ten minutes in which I could provide a glimpse of what I do with NLP. I chose to do a brief mental exercise, which I hoped would simply arouse my audience’s curiosity. I am happy to say that my short presentation went well and conjured the enthusiasm I was hoping for.
Why was this incident so striking? It’s because of the fact that I was relatively calm and actually enjoyed making the presentation. Not long ago, the thought of having to stand and speak in front of people made me almost physically ill. I used to get so nervous that my hands would shake, my breathing would be laboured and my thoughts jumbled — not the best ingredients for a magical presentation. So what changed between then and now? Discovering NLP, of course.
Many people react strongly to the idea of presenting. In fact, when asked to list their biggest fears, most people put fear of presenting at the top of their list. Even some famous actors and performers suffer from attacks of anxiety and fear before going on stage.
So what are the key ingredients that can help you present magically without fear?
1- Being comfortable, being yourself
A lot of people are afraid to be themselves in front of an audience. They feel that they have to adopt a kind of “presentation personality” before they can stand and talk to an audience. Without this armour, they feel exposed, open to criticism and vulnerable.
According to Dr Brene Brown, a researcher at the University of Houston, to establish connection we need to be authentic.
“Let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen”, she says at a presentation for TEDx Houston. “Vulnerability is the birth place of creativity”, she adds.
She defines vulnerability as the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees. In NLP we use the expression wanton experimentation: the willingness to do anything just to find out what would happen if you did it, to keep trying different things until you get the results you want. It’s Ok to make mistakes as long as we learn from those mistakes. This ties in nicely with my next point.
2-There is no failure, only feedback
NLP makes assumptions about how the world works. These assumptions are known aspresuppositions. This is one of those presuppositions. It is more empowering to believe that when things don’t go the way we expected, we simply haven’t failed, but got some feedback as to how to do it differently next time.
3- The way you feel determines the results you get
The illustration above aims at explaining how the things going on in our heads change our behaviour and therefore our results. State means your emotional state. The way you are feeling at a given moment in time. Two things influence our state: our internal representation and our physiology.
Internal representation refers to what you hold in your mind. Think about something that you did in the past that went horribly wrong and as you think about it notice how you feel. Not so good, right? Now in contrast think about something that you did that was an absolute success and as you think about that notice how you feel. You feel great. Right? The conclusion is that what you hold in your mind determines how you feel.
Physiology on the other hand refers to body language. You would know that someone is feeling low from their posture: slumped shoulders, looking down, walking slowly, sighing heavily and perhaps not smiling. On the other hand the body language of someone who just heard that they won the lottery would be quite different: fully animated, walking fast, head held high and smiling broadly. Therefore the way you feel can change your physiology. The inverse is also true, your physiology can change the way feel. If you don’t believe this then do this: stand upright, with your head held high and with a big grin on your face, and try to feel depressed. Difficult isn’t it?
In other words, if you stride confidently with your head held high into your presentation, and retain positive thoughts and images about the outcome, you are more likely to succeed than if you were to have images and thoughts of the audience hating you and of you forgetting your content. Most people who are afraid of presenting admit when asked that they often imagine the audience hating them, asking them difficult questions that they might not be able to answer. Well, no wonder they feel afraid. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between what’s imagined and what is real, that is why you are able to feel all those fears just from thinking about your presentation. So why not think positively? The audience loves you and will ask you questions that you will answer easily and effortlessly. Now that you know how to put yourself into a positive state then you can use it at will.
4- The brain cannot process negative language
What do you think about when I say to you “Do not think of a blue tree”? That’s right you immediately think of a blue tree. That is because when the human brain is creating an internal representation, it cannot directly represent a negative concept. For you not to think of a blue tree you have to conjure the image of a blue tree first. So when we tell someone “Don’t worry” they will effectively worry. What we should say instead is “ Stay calm and worry free” for example. So from now on say it the way you want it. In your presentation be aware of the thoughts that your language is bringing up in your audience’s mind. If for example you are promoting a new product, the last thing you want to say is “I don’t want you to think that this product is expensive”.
5- Make sure you are communicating with everyone in the room
Be aware of the varied representational systems within your audience. Some persons might be visual, some auditory and some kinaesthetic. As a presenter your language should include predicates from all those representational systems in order to make sure that you are communicating and connecting with all members of your audience. “Do you see what I mean?” is an example of a visual predicate. “I hear what you are saying” is an auditory predicate and “ Get a handle on this” is a kinaesthetic predicate.
6- Practice makes perfect
It is good to prepare well, be familiar with your content and practice before hand to a small group of trusted friends who can give you useful feedback to improve on your presentation before delivering it to a wider audience.
Recommended reading: Presenting Magically by Tad James and David Shephard