February 17, 2007

Another client story

This isn't so much a story as an illustration. I'm working with a client who has described to me an "irrational fear" of public speaking. He has avoided it as much as possible throughout his entire career, including the years that he's been CEO of an international company. He is now having to speak more to represent his company, and came to me with two days to work on his public speaking before flying to Europe to present at a conference.

We discussed his concerns and the nature of his fear. Most of the fear stemmed from his own certainty that he's boring and that his presentation is no good. He wasn't concerned so much with the external approval of his audience as he was with his own perceptions and judgments of his abilities.

After our discussion, we taped his presentation; he had never seen himself on video. Unfortunately, the LCD projector (that cost a LOT of money to rent) didn't work, and he had to give his presentation to me sans PowerPoint, creating further discomfort. I gave him a few notes on what to look for in the video, and we parted ways. He watched the video later that evening.

His first comment to me when we met to follow up: "I'm not as bad as I thought I would be!"

He commented that he had been so fearful and judgmental of his skills that he was surprised to see that none of his flaws "seemed insurmountable." He wasn't exactly happy with the video, but realized that the problems could be fixed. We then followed up on the previous day's work, refining the details and process of the upcoming presentation.

I gave him a visualization exercise and asked him to keep that positive mindset as he visualized his successful presentation. I encouraged him to start actively replacing the negative thoughts with positive ones - instead of "I'm boring," and "No one will be interested," to say to himself, "People want me to succeed," and "I've got a lot of worthwhile things to say."

In my previous posts about the power of the mind (full article here), I've talked about the fact that many of our fears of public speaking (and other things) are based on thoughts that have little to no basis in reality. I will quote myself here: "If our mind is powerful enough to create fear from 'nothing,' it's also powerful enough to reframe our thoughts to propel us forward in a positive way."

As my client said, "Nothing is insurmountable!"

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