Shame

I once heard a therapist say that shame is like an electric bulb that suddenly glows with greater intensity - an intensity triggered by a perception, thought, or memory about a perceived humiliation. For the public speaker who suffers from the effects of shame before, during, or after a talk, this reaction of extreme blushing or heat, or feeling of embarrassment, is a painful sign that you believe that others see you as being not worthy, lower than the lowest, less than nothing. 

To fight the feelings by avoidance or tension only increases this devastating reaction. When you practice the TalkPower Mind/Body Program regularly, plus the following anti-shame exercise, you can eliminate the shame reaction after six months of weekly rehearsal. The peace of mind is certainly worth the effort.

When you stand in front of a group - better yet, when waiting to speak - make up your mind not to fight or resist your shame reaction. Embrace your shame. When you feel it coming over you, stay in touch with the feeling, exhale, and do your belly breathing. Breathe and relax with the shame. Breathe it in and out, letting it swell and grow inside of you. Breathe and surrender to the reaction of shame. Try to tolerate the feelings of shame by breathing into them. At the same time, it’s important to be aware of any pictures, memories, or thought that come up for you.

Make a commitment to work on your shame. Whenever you feel even a tinge of self-consciousness, immediately exhale, begin breathing, and relax into the sensation. Let the shame pass through you and out of you. At first this exercise is incredibly uncomfortable. Do a little bit each day. After several weeks you will find that the intensity of the shame sensation begins to diminish, and finally, disappears, as the exercise rewires your brain with new neural patterning. 

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© 2000-2013 by Natalie H. Rogers

2017 Dates Available for TalkPower Workshops.  

ALSO NEW: Inexpensive Streaming Workshops Will Be Offered in 2017. If you are interested, please contact Natalie H. Rogers at 212-684-1711. 

My Great “Aha!”

In 1978 I took a course in Public Speaking. I was surprised by how nervous the other students were in the class. Suddenly I had an idea: I thought about Stanislavski’s method for changing behavior. I felt that if you could transform a clumsy self-conscious actor into an elegant gentleman, you could also change the behavior of a person who was afraid to speak in public. I was intrigued by the possibility and so I started working on a Public Speaking Program.

Creating various exercises, I tried to extract the essence of the Stanislavski training so that it could be useful for a person who was not an actor. Having studied these principles, I had an excellent background for taking on this project. I came to believe that studying the training an actor receives for portraying a character will not give us a complete understanding of how the Stanislavski approach is able to produce such remarkable results. By this I mean that as I compared the professional actor on the stage to the nervous speaker making a presentation, it became very clear that acting before an audience is much more complex than I had imagined. 

For example, when we carefully observe an actor on the stage, we see that actors have performance skills as well as acting skills. Acting skills enable an actor to behave in character by taking on the emotional and physical qualities of a character. This is how a role is created. On the other hand, performance skills enable actors to concentrate, move freely, and speak fluently with confidence as they present their roles to the audience. Even though I had worked for years as an actress, the idea of performance as a skill separate from acting was totally new to me. 

What is a Skill Anyway?

In order to acquire a skill like swimming, riding a bicycle or speaking in public, your brain must re-pattern itself by growing the neural pathways (wiring) for that particular skill. This happens when you deliberately perform certain movements over and over again in a specific order, like practicing scales on the piano. From these repetitive movements, your brain grows the neural patterns (via axons and dendrites) that produce chemicals, electrical signals and finally, impulses that allow you to execute that particular skill automatically. So, if performance is a skill, I had to ask myself, “What are the repetitive movements that a speaker must do to grow the neural patterning for the same control and concentration that an actor has on the stage?

Inventing different methods to get all of my students to work on focusing within (even the Type-A’s), I created uniform and systematic procedures for developing the ability to concentrate on your presentation when people were looking at you.  

For the benefit of a full training experience, the TalkPower Workshop is guaranteed to produce the comfort and the confidence you are looking for!

© 2000-2013 by Natalie H. Rogers

2017 dates available for TalkPower WorkshopsSign up now! ALSO NEW: Inexpensive Streaming Workshops Will Be Offered in 2017. If you are interested, please contact Natalie H. Rogers at 212-684-1711. 

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Phobias Acquired Later in Life

Some 70% of my students and clients recall that from early childhood they were shy and didn’t speak up. The other 30% who suffer from public speaking phobia have a different story. There people were once excellent speakers. Generally outgoing, some were active in drama and debate clubs, were class valedictorians or presidents of school societies. They report this kind of experience:

I have about a hundred people working for me, and there I was, in front of my entire staff, nervous but doing all right, I guess. We had just been awarded a major contract and this was to be the announcement. Suddenly I looked at them and I couldn’t say a word; or even think a word. They just looked at me and the room got very quiet, and I started to get very warm, and I could feel my face turning red... And I was totally speechless. It was the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to me. I can’t talk in front of groups anymore.
- James, commerical real estate developer. 

Behavioral psychology tells us that phobias happen after a traumatic event - usually an experience that shakes the individual to his core - like a psychological near-death experience. One’s sense of personal control and safety is utterly shattered at the deepest levels of self, resulting in post-traumatic stress syndrome. The stress reaction can appear immediately or up to two years after the traumatic event. 

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Precipitating Events

Another interesting fact about phobias is that they follow the rule, “Different strokes for different folks.” For one person, the precipitating event could be tragic, like the death of a parent or child, a catastrophic illness, or a past sexual abuse, rape or incest. For another, moving to a new community, going away to college, or losing a job can produce a similar post-traumatic stress reaction. 

No matter what the cause, or the variety of precipitating events, the result can be a phobia, such as fears of flying, driving, fear of heights, or enclosed places. The phobia, triggered by a particular event, can then generalize to other areas, such as fear of escalators or trains, or a sudden panic attack in front of an audience. 

The panic attack causes an episode of thought-blocking and becomes another traumatic event that will not be forgotten. The next time an opportunity for speaking arises, you are psychologically transported to the past - and that moment when you were speechless. You simply cannot do it; you decline with some excuse. One avoidant experience leads to another, and in a very short time you have glossophobia: an irrational fear of speaking in public. 

And so you join the silent many. Your voice is no longer heard, your reputation as a speaker, a thing of the past. You are silent, just like the person who cannot speak because of humiliation in childhood. 

Understanding Why

These “late bloomers” are always relieved to discover why they suddenly lost their ability to speak in public and that this mysterious malady can be healed with training. Time and time again I hear students say, “I lost my mother and we were very close. So that is why I became speechless at that meeting.” or “It happened to me when I started college and I was so afraid I couldn’t hack it.”

One man who called me before he attended the TalkPower Workshop said he had no idea what could have caused a sudden panic attack he experienced at a Rotary Club meeting he was chairing. Later, when he attended the TalkPower seminar, he said, “I was thinking about what you told me, and then after several days I realized that we tragically lost our little girl to a terrible illness around that time.” If you suddenly, for no apparent reason, have had an episode of speechlessness, understanding why you lost your ability to speak in public will help to motivate you to work with the training methods in a TalkPower Workshop

© 2000-2013 by Natalie H. Rogers

2017 dates available for TalkPower WorkshopsSign up now! ALSO NEW: Inexpensive Streaming Workshops Will Be Offered in 2017. If you are interested, please contact Natalie H. Rogers at 212-684-1711. 

True Confessions: Part 4: Final Installment

So I say to you, Dear Reader, just as I say to the students in my seminars: There is hope. I learned to love to fly, and you can learn to speak in public and love it. You can feel great and powerful doing a talk; give yourself that chance. For each moment that you invest working with the TalkPower program, you will be repaid a thousand times over. The skills you will learn when you do the assignments and rehearsals are permanent, lifelong acquisitions. 

Just as drivers never forget how to drive cars, actors never forget or lose their performance skills, even if they have not performed for many years. Once you have gained these performance skills, you will have them for the rest of your life. You will not believe the compliments that will come your way. At first, you may be nervous, but then you will have the feeling of satisfaction that comes with being able to stand up and express yourself fully and well. If for some reason you stop practicing in the middle of your training period, you can always pick up where you left off at a later time, because a skill is derived from a network of neural patterns that become a permanent part of who you are and what you can do. 

I was born to be a teacher. As far back as I can remember my job has been to clarify and to inspire. The rewards are enormous. Nothing can compare to the satisfaction that I feel when a student tells of a moment of personal or professional triumph. Sharing many such moments with thousands of students over the years has given me an enormous feeling of validation. Not only have I shared their triumph, I have seen the impossible become possible. 

Several years ago I had a student who fainted on the platform during his valedictory address. Afterward, he went through the TalkPower program and ultimately became one of the spokespersons for his professional organization. Another young man in one of my classes suffered so severely from fear of public speaking that he lost his vision whenever he stood in front of an audience. His courage and commitment to his practice of the TalkPower program helped him to work his way out of his terrible fear. Today he is a technical consultant for his company and gives lecture demonstrations all over the world.

Not as dramatic, but just as satisfying, have been the achievements of students who came to the seminars with a minimum of nervousness but whose presentations were quite ordinary and rather dull. After they had followed through on the rehearsals and assignments, these students became polished speakers, glowing with a warmth and charm they never dreamed they possessed. 

These real-life accounts are not unusual. You are no different from any of the people who have come to the program over the years with a strong desire to overcome the terror that prevented them from speaking in public successfully. Give yourself a chance! You, too, can feel good about yourself when you get up to speak. 

Keep up with the work. Put aside the small but realistic amount of time that you will need to keep working on the rehearsals and assignments. With only twenty minutes of practice a day for the next three weeks, you can make a major breakthrough in your life.

Isn’t it time you came out?
Isn’t it time we heard your voice?
Isn’t it time your shimmering soul was revealed?
We are waiting... 
We believe in you... 

© 2000-2013 by Natalie H. Rogers

2017 dates available for TalkPower WorkshopsSign up now! ALSO NEW: Inexpensive Streaming Workshops Will Be Offered in 2017. If you are interested, please contact Natalie H. Rogers at 212-684-1711. 

True Confessions: Part 3

As time went on, my feelings of terror gradually disappeared, decreasing with each new flying experience. Today I must admit that I love to fly. I love it! I sit in my seat and play with my toys: my tapes, my books, my notes, my letters... no telephones, no appointments. It seems the only place I am truly free is in an airplane, and I love it. I even look forward to my tray of airplane food, sitting in my seat watching a movie, pressing a button to summon the flight attendant. “More ginger ale, please.”

And I ask myself: What happened to my terror? Where did it go? I grab my arms, I squeeze myself, looking for that feeling of dread that was so much a part of me as soon as I walked into an airport and the night before. Looking for terror and fear, that black cloud of anxiety, I pinch myself. Perhaps I am not alert. Where is it - that sensation of angst and tension as I sit, buckled in my seat, flying high over the oceans, plains or mountain ranges?

It’s gone! It’s totally gone. I do not have one drop of fear of flying in my entire body. I fly in the winter. Lightning cracks above the wings; hail pelts the plane; we drop and climb. No problem. I am dozing in my spa in the sky. 

Last year, returning from the Bahamas, my plane was the object of a bomb scare. Not a peep out of me. I was sure everything would be all right. I am a naturally optimistic person. How did I do it? And this is like a Zen parable. I did it by doing it. 

Why am I telling you all of this? I am telling you this story because, first of all, I think it’s very funny, and I enjoy sharing funny stories about myself. But more to the point, many of my students tell me that they have heard that once you have a fear you can never get rid of it, that there is always some tiny vestige (or some big vestige) of that original terror that remains forever and ever. 

It’s not true. Look at me. As I said before, there is not one speck of fear about flying in my body or brain, and I would fly anywhere in a heartbeat. Just give me the chance. 

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© 2000-2013 by Natalie H. Rogers

2017 dates available for TalkPower WorkshopsSign up now! ALSO NEW: Inexpensive Streaming Workshops Will Be Offered in 2017. If you are interested, please contact Natalie H. Rogers at 212-684-1711. 

True Confessions: Part 2

On the way home, as I entered the Houston airport to pick up a plane for Dallas, I noticed immediately something peculiar: I was calm. I felt... well, the best way to put it is... “normal.”

I stopped examining the faces of the other passengers in search of a terrorist profile or trying to identify some angry man about to put a bomb on a plane to dispose of his mother-in-law. This sensation of tranquility lasted for about twenty-five minutes, and I took note of it because it was so strange, so different from the usual state of hysteria I had suffered during the previous trip. Of course, my stress and tension returned as soon as I was buckled in my seat. 

Thank God! The tour was over. Heaving a sigh of relief, I was home, bringing with me a major change. Still terrified of flying, I was actually willing to consider going on a vacation in an airplane. “Major” is an understatement. 

And so, as a family, we began flying to Snowmass in Colorado, to Europe in the summer... here, there and everywhere. I also accepted invitations to speak and to teach.

Of course my hyper vigilance was on active duty at all times, smelling the interior of the plane to detect smoke or any untoward and dangerous aroma; examining the faces of the flight attendants to see if they knew anything terrible that I didn’t know; checking the weather (on land and in the air). An empty seat with a briefcase sitting on it was enough to bring on an arsenal of relaxation techniques and listening to the voice of the captain. (Oh, that was a good one. I was a therapist, and I could tell from his voice in just one or two sentences, if he was intoxicated, a dope addict, possibly psychotic, or had not had enough sleep the night before. Oh yes, I was working all the time.) 

And then one day I was sitting in a plane, waiting to take off for England. I was scheduled to do a TalkPower seminar at the Barbican in London. Reading a book, I was blithely unaware of the comings and goings of other passengers, which in itself was no small miracle because I had never been able to read a book while waiting for a plane to take off. Oh no, not me! I had always been much too busy, checking the vibrations, the faces, the crew, the captain, belly breathing, listening to my relaxation tapes, praying. I looked out the window, and I was amazed: I saw beautiful white clouds all around me.

The plane had actually taken off without the assistance of my consciousness. What a pleasant surprise! Letting down on the job? Was I becoming casual about this? Perhaps not. Perhaps something else was happening. 

To be continued...

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© 2000-2013 by Natalie H. Rogers

2017 dates available for TalkPower WorkshopsSign up now! ALSO NEW: Inexpensive Streaming Workshops Will Be Offered in 2017. If you are interested, please contact Natalie H. Rogers at 212-684-1711. 

True Confessions: Part 1

Years ago, when I was an actress, I had my first panic attack in a plane that was landing in Cincinnati. Just as the pilot was dipping his wings, my heart began to race uncontrollably. I could barely breathe. I thought that I was going to die.

Somehow the plane landed and then I got back to New York, but I never, ever again would get into an airplane. If I couldn’t go somewhere in a car, taxi, train, boat or sled, I didn’t go! It was a small price to pay for safety and peace of mind. The irony was that previously, in one of my incarnations, I had briefly worked as an airline stewardess. Now I couldn’t fly. 

From the sidelines I saw my friends going to wonderful and exotic places. Not me: I was grounded, shot down in my prime. Time passed. I became a therapist. And one day the publisher of my first TalkPower book called to tell me that my book was one of their lead books for the season. I was to be sent on a national tour, flying from New York all the way across the country and back, with the tour lasting four weeks. 

I was thrilled. Of course, in my heart, I knew I would never go. How could I? Now I was a mother. I had a little girl: my darling Colette. How could I put her in jeopardy of becoming an orphan? Which, of course, I was sure would happen once I set foot in a plane.

The tour would not happen for six months, and living in the moment, I decided to bask in the glory of my alleged national tour, just for a few weeks, just long enough to tell all my friends and to feel like a celebrity. How I enjoyed the attention and the status of being an author with a first book, about to go on a national tour!

Time went by, and I began to hear voices of conscience urging me to pick up the telephone and call the publisher. It wasn’t fair. They were making so many plans. They had even hired an outside public relations person and arranged glamorous breakfasts at the Brasserie just for me.

I had to tell them: I simply couldn’t go. How could I do that? Would you? I delayed. Another month went by... You understand. I just couldn’t let go of it. Sleepless nights obsessing about catastrophes in the sky collided with dreams of book signings and TV interviews. I was going mad. And here I was, a therapist. It was so embarrassing. But I didn’t tell anyone.

I too said, “I can’t believe this is happening to me!” Finally, it was too late to refuse. A voice deep within me said, “Natalie Rogers, if you are going to die in an airplane you might as well, because life is no longer worth living this way.” And this is how it was settled. The tides of embarrassment and desperate ambition had sealed my fate: I was going. No turning back. I had eliminated my conflict, but instead I was hit with waves of anxiety, anticipating the panic attacks, the terror, the fear, the possible end that lay in store for me in the air, day after day, on a national tour. I kissed my daughter good-bye, seriously wondering if I would ever see the dear child again. 

The first flight was a nightmare: flying to Chicago in November with the wind chill factor (whatever that is) as low as only Chicago can get. I curled up in a fetal position with a blanket over me, belly breathing my little heart out, watching the scrambled eggs on my neighbor’s tray bounce twelve inches into the air again and again. 

What did I get myself into? Help!

And so on... as we traveled from Chicago to Minneapolis, to Texas, Indiana, and California, from city to city, landing and taking off every day for four weeks. How I survived, I will never know. 

Obviously, I did. I took note of the fact that the minute we landed and the wheels touched the tarmac, the interior of the plane seemed to brighten. Other times, when we were about to take off, the plane seemed dark and foreboding. 

Finally it dawned on me that the danger was in my head. That my terror was based upon some madness that had nothing to do with the plane I was flying in. It was an intellectual observation, but interesting nonetheless. 

To be continued...

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© 2000-2013 by Natalie H. Rogers

2017 dates available for TalkPower Workshops. Sign up now! ALSO NEW: Inexpensive Streaming Workshops Will Be Offered in 2017. If you are interested, please contact Natalie H. Rogers at 212-684-1711. 

Why choose TalkPower over every other public speaking program?

You may be great in a one-on-one conversation. But when it comes to making a toast, giving a presentation or talking at a meeting in front of people who are looking at you, if you have enormous anxiety, lose your concentration, can’t breathe right, plus lots of other embarrassing things that happen, you are the perfect candidate for a TalkPower Public Speaking Workshop.

Did you know that the ability to concentrate when you are the center of attention is a skill? You have probably never thought about this because you are only familiar with conversation. In conversations, words travel back and forth. Usually we do not feel we are being observed, judged, criticized or that we are observing, judging or criticizing the other person. This is the core of the problem for people who have anxiety about speaking in public. When you speak in public or participate at a meeting, there is a subtle but powerful shift from your normal perceptions. You suddenly feel totally out of control. Why? Because everyone is looking at you. You are no longer in a conversation, you are performing. This is the central and organizing principle for the training you will receive when you take a TalkPower Workshop. TalkPower training offers a series of original hands-on exercises that develops the neural patterning (brain-wiring) to give you the ability to focus and concentrate when you are speaking in front of an audience. By this I mean TalkPower exercises will train your brain to allow you to focus on what you have to say rather than thinking about what the people who are looking at you think about you. This ability (skill) can only be achieved through hands-on repetition exercises. TalkPower is the only systematic technology for training your brain (re-patterning) so that you have the ability to stand in front of an audience and remain focused on your presentation.

 

In contrast, all other public speaking classes use an advice and tips format with suggestions such as  ‘keep your hands still’, ‘don’t shuffle from one foot to another’, ‘project your voice’, ‘relax’, ‘make eye contact’, use more body language, speak more slowly or more quickly and encouraging you ‘that was great’.

 

The thing that makes public speaking different from all other skills is that you are in front of an audience. Therefore, I feel justified in saying that there is no way that you can become significantly more comfortable or skilled by having someone look at your performance and give you advice about what you should and shouldn’t do. The reason for this is that your anxious response and all of the symptoms that you experience about speaking in public are expressions of your autonomic nervous system, just like a knee-jerk. As a result of your automatic reaction, (anxiety, shaking, trembling, memory loss, rapid heartbeat etc.) none of these symptoms can respond or change or correct themselves with advice or tips. The only thing that will make a significant, if not amazing, change is in-depth mind-body training. The kind of training offered in a TalkPower Workshop where the results are consistent and permanent. Most horrendous of all, you can’t learn how to feel comfortable and speak persuasively by being videoed in front of a class where the humiliation and shame of seeing yourself drives people away from ever speaking in public. In other words, if you have a serious fear of speaking in public and you take any other program, you will have a nice experience rehearing, leaving your performance anxiety in tact. At best we can say that all other public speaking programs offer you an opportunity to rehearse whatever it is that you do and that’s it. I would go so far as to say that there is not one public speaking program with the 100% results of success that TalkPower participants routinely experience.

 

Some people feel that the price of a TalkPower Workshop is expensive even though TalkPower offers a very reasonable time payment-plan that would work with any budget. They reason that it makes sense to choose a less expensive program because after all, it’s just another public speaking workshop. Having worked with hundreds of participants who have attended other less expensive public speaking classes, before they came to TalkPower, only to be disappointed by promises unfulfilled, I’m convinced that other programs in the market are unable to deal effectively with the severity of this problem. The fact is that paying for a training that will give you permanent public speaking skills for excellent and elegant performance is an essential investment not only in your career but also in your self-esteem, your peace of mind and your ability to present yourself as a well-rounded professional. Actually as many of the TalkPower participants have said at the end of a 14-hour intensive TalkPower Workshop, ‘this training experience has been priceless’ (listen to audio testimonials). There is no dollar amount that you can put upon the value you will receive in a TalkPower Workshop. In addition, may I add that TalkPower is the only public speaking workshop offering a guarantee that if you are not satisfied with our training after the first 4 hours, you will receive a complete refund on the spot, no questions asked.

Finally, those choosing a TalkPower Workshop will find the comfort, freedom, and joy that speaking in public successfully can bring.

 

 

Part 2: Trial Litigation for Attorneys

EXERCISE: Courtroom Rehearsal

The following rehearsal schedule is extremely effective in preparing you properly for the toughest of courtroom confrontations.

Set up several chairs, and a designated place where you will be standing, as you give your opening and closing remarks. Do the Basic Performance Rehearsal Routine (details in TalkPower book or TalkPower workshops). 

1. Stand in front of your imaginary judge, jury, and people in the gallery.

(Squeeze... squeeze... squeeze... those toes).

Say the first three words of your talk very slowly, with a space between each word. Continue through the rest of your talk. 

If you have not already made places in your talk for pauses, please note places where a pause - three toe squeeze - is appropriate for your audience as well as yourself by circling the spot on the page with a red pen. If you find that you are speaking too quickly, or you find that your talk is disorganized, I suggest you run through the TalkPower program again, starting with Chapter 6: The TalkPower Action Formula, an excellent guide for developing the story logic of a summation. 

2. Say the last sentence of your presentation. 

(Squeeze... squeeze... squeeze... those toes).

3. Walk back to your seat. Sit down. Do ten Belly Breaths. See how you feel.

4. Do this two times a day for five days before your court appearance. Concentrate on the feeling of gravity pulling your hands downs. 

For more tips and instructions, we welcome you to attend our FINAL 2016 TalkPower Workshop on November 5&6 (if not satisfied, money back guaranteed).

LAST CHANCE FOR 2016!

© 2000-2013 by Natalie H. Rogers

Part 1: Trial Litigation for Attorneys

“All the world’s a stage.” 

Seldom is the drama as intense as it is in the courtroom for attorneys. Cross-examinations, summations, and depositions are stressful. Constant interruptions, hostile judges, uncooperative witnesses, and formidable adversaries batter the nervous system. As a result, the tension, fatigue, and wear-and-tear upon the attorney are considerable, frequently diminishing concentration and the quality of likability that is so important to a jury. 

I know that attorneys in particular are extremely busy, and it is tempting to skip the rehearsal routine; but if you examine your priorities, you will see how important it is to rehearse properly, because the final result of all your hard work will be determined by your courtroom performance. 

Talking too fast, becoming confused, sidetracked or losing your concentration because of anxiety, can ruin the most skillfully prepared examination or summation. 

Here, likability is, at times, as vital as credibility. By likability I mean the quality of appearing warm, earnest, in control, decisive, and clear; not tense, hard, cold or agitated. A good rehearsal routine will help you to remain in control of yourself. Therefore, it is essential if you want to deliver a strong, convincing opening or closing statement. 

The exercise is also beneficial for preparing for a cross-examination. The TalkPower Action Formula is an excellent guide for developing the story logic of a summation.

The next exercise, presented in the next blog titled Courtroom Rehearsal, is beneficial for preparing for a cross-examination.

For more tips and instructions, we welcome you to attend our FINAL 2016 TalkPower Workshop on November 5&6 (if not satisfied, money back guaranteed). Places filling fast!

© 2000-2013 by Natalie H. Rogers

Questions and Answers

Don’t React - Repeat!!!

For the insecure speaker, each new question presents the threat of a partial or complete mental shutdown. Therefore, the most important reason for repeating the question is that, dynamically, it gives you time to recover from the shock of the unexpected question. When you absorb the brunt of a question, by repeating it, you create a buffer against the impulse to react immediately with an answer that you might regret. Repeating the question gives you the opportunity to recover your poise and avoid firing off a thoughtless response. 

Just imagine if someone suddenly pushed you and you lost your footing. You could not properly respond to the push as long as you were off balance. Similarly, in the Q&A, a question, especially a hostile one, is experienced as a violent assault to your psyche. When you repeat the question, you regain your psychological footing and can respond from a position of balance. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of developing the habit of repeating the question. It sounds like a simple procedure, but the benefits are profound. There are several ways to repeat a question. 

EXAMPLE

Question: How can you say that global warming is our most immediate environmental crisis, when destruction of the rain forest presents such a hazard for global equilibrium?

Suggestions for repeating the question:

  • “A question has been raised about the high priority that we give to global warming.”
  • “The question is: How can I say that global warming is our most immediate environmental crisis?”
  • “Global warming as a priority.”
  • “A question about priorities.”
  • “Rain forests.”

Even a brief response, as in the last example, will help you resist the impulse to react rather than give a thoughtful answer. This is important if you wish to project likability, maintaining your image of leadership with a friendly, kind, and mature presence. 

Repeating the question should become habitual behavior. If you do not cultivate this habit, it will be too late to answer effectively when a difficult, confrontational, or unexpected question suddenly appears. 

Questions from Hell

Preparing properly for the Q&A can turn a walk in a mine field into an invigorating jog in a park. After you have finished working on your talk, list five to ten questions (especially the most difficult ones) that could possibly be asked; questions that might make you uncomfortable.

Include questions such as:

  • “What question may prove embarrassing to you?”
  • “What question do you know you do not have the answer to?”
  • “What question refers to your weakest point?”
  • “What question will bring up a past error or omission?”

Now write out short simple answers to each one. Concentrate on the questions that do not have good answers, like “Why did you lost the XYZ account?” When trying to answer these questions, your anxiety may prevent you from coming up with a good response. What to do?

Ask for Help

Call a colleague, your friend, ask your wife...what about that smart sister-in-law of yours - say, “How would you answer this question?” Chances are that since they have no anxiety or investment here, someone will come up with a spin (creative interpretation, or angle) - a new way of looking at the question - that sounds reasonable. What you need is an answer you can live with. Such as “Have you ever looked at this from a historical perspective? In 1933 that market was... Then in 1961... but then in 1987... And now...” Or “Well, you know XYZ has had six different agencies working on that account in the last eight years...”

Remember you do not need a great answer. Still, you want to be prepared; you want to have an answer that will make you look and feel like a reasonably intelligent person.

When you get the answer from your friend or colleague, be sure to write it down. Make your answers short and clear, and then go to the next question. Finally, list your brief but satisfactory responses and rehearse them along with your presentation. Later, when that killer question comes up, you will be able to reply with confidence, thinking “I knew you would ask that question, and I just happen to have the answer.”

For more tips and instructions, we welcome you to attend our FINAL 2016 TalkPower Workshop on November 5&6 (if not satisfied, money back guaranteed). 

© 2000-2013 by Natalie H. Rogers

Can I Read My Speech?

Many of my students come to the workshop with the notion that reading a speech is unprofessional; they fear that reading will make them lose their spontaneity. This is the silliest thing I ever heard and completely impractical. An all-or-nothing approach will only serve to discourage you from ever taking the risk of speaking in public. 

Isn’t it better to feel confident, using a written script? Why avoid an opportunity to speak because you are afraid you will forget what you wanted to say? If you do accept an opportunity to speak and you choose not to use a script, isn’t it foolish to run the risk of rambling on and on, feeling insecure and embarrassed? Is it any wonder that there are so many terrible speakers out there when people are taught that using a script is a big no-no? Of course you can read. Common sense will tell you that confidence comes from feeling secure and this can happen only if your speech is accessible. 

A Listening Audience, Not a Reading Audience

The fact is people lose their spontaneity when they read from a paper because they prepare a talk as if it were a term paper. “Fill up as many pages as possible and you’ll get a better grade.” If the professor had to skim over repetitions and irrelevancies, that was his problem. A listening audience cannot skim. Go off the beaten track for half a millisecond and you lose your crowd. The audience tunes out, planning dinner, lunch, the weekend, counting the tiles on the ceiling...

Using the TalkPower guidelines will help you write such an entertaining script that your audience will be hovering over every word. Learning how to write for a listening audience, not a reading audience, makes all the difference. After you have been using a written script for some time, and have internalized what a real beginning, middle, and end are all about, you will be able to speak without a script. For the time being, if you follow the TalkPower Action Formula, plus the rehearsal techniques, your scripted presentations will be as well received - or even better received - than a talk done off the cuff. 

Looking Up

An old wive’s tale maintains that if you read from a script you will sound stilted. Actually, you sound stilted when you constantly read with your nose in the text. The secret of appearing spontaneous lies in rehearsing the script so that you look up at the audience, then back at your script. Practice your talk looking at the text, then looking out at your imaginary audience, then finding your place and looking at your text again. Not only will you feel secure, you will appear charming, knowledgeable and in control. 

For more tips and instructions, we welcome you to attend our FINAL 2016 TalkPower Workshop on November 5&6 (if not satisfied, money back guaranteed). 

© 2000-2013 by Natalie H. Rogers

Walking Down the Aisle

Many people do not realize how traumatic walking down the aisle can be for a person who is uncomfortable when he or she is the center of attention. The bride or groom (or wedding party member) who suffers from intense self-consciousness, can go through weeks of painful anticipatory anxiety, worrying about that moment when he or she hears the organ playing ‘Here Comes the Bride.’ They think “Oh God, will I faint?” “Will I be able to breathe?” “I am going to spoil the wedding!” “I wish I could call this off...” and so on.

Only the person who suffers from performance anxiety can possibly understand the grief that comes with this unfortunate condition. However, if you rehearse walking down the aisle using the TalkPower belly breathing exercise, plus the TalkPower Transitional Mantra (see “The New TalkPower book or attend a TalkPower workshop for details), or the basic desensitization exercises at home, well in advance of the wedding date, you will find that your comfort level on the day of the wedding has increased by 100%. As a matter of fact, you may even enjoy your own wedding, much to your surprise and delight!

For more tips and instructions, we welcome you to attend our FINAL 2016 TalkPower Workshops on November 5&6 (if not satisfied, money back guaranteed). 

© 2000-2013 by Natalie H. Rogers

Speaking Names Clearly

Many people mumble and stumble through names and abbreviations of names, making it impossible to understand what  they are saying. I am calling special attention to this because time and time again I have to remind the participants in my TalkPower workshops to speak the name of people, places and things slowly and clearly. This is true even for many experienced speakers.

When you have a written text, names and letters and abbreviations are always printed in bold type or italics or some form of capital letter. The same kind of special attention should be paid to names when they are spoken. Actually, more attention is necessary because the spoken work is so fleeting.

Even if your associates tell you that your talk went very well, ask if they were really able to understand all of the names you mentioned. 

For more tips and instructions, we welcome you to attend our FINAL 2016 TalkPower Workshops on November 5&6 (if not satisfied, money back guaranteed). 

© 2000-2013 by Natalie H. Rogers

Natalie H. Rogers at her book signing event in Beijing when her TalkPower book was published in China.

Natalie H. Rogers at her book signing event in Beijing when her TalkPower book was published in China.

Testifying in Court

One of the most nerve-wracking experiences that the person who suffers from performance anxiety can endure is testifying in court. Even for the individual who is slightly nervous about speaking in public, the courtroom can be a shock to the system. A shock that one does not easily recover from. Hostile and beligerent attorneys and prosecutors (and judges!) can wither the coolest of cucumbers in a matter of moments. In my twenty years with the TalkPower program, I have worked with police officers, detectives, psychiatrists, and forensic experts who suffered from intense anticipatory anxiety and public speaking phobia no matter how many times they had performed this service. Nevertheless they were required (because of their jobs) to testify in court. Finally, after attending a TalkPower workshop they were able to testify fluently, being physically comfortable and in control. 

TalkPower exercises were a lifesaver for them. I am sure they will be for you if you practice these procedures with discipline and dedication. TalkPower Workshops provide you with all the tools and exercises you will need. As an example, here are a selection of exercises from the TalkPower program that you can do in advance of your courtroom debut. They will allow you to function on all eight cyclinders, instead of the mumbling/bumbling mess of anxiety that you anticipate in your worse nightmare. 

  1. Make a list of the questions that you anticipate will be asked of you, or if your attorney has given you those questions, so much the better. Of course, you understand that questions will probably be asked that you do not expect. 
  2. Write out a brief answer to each question including those that you are not sure about. Make sure that you answer only the questions you are asked. DO NOT volunteer any additional information: not in your rehearsal and not, heaven forbid, in court.
  3. Do the basic pre-rehearsal routine beginning with the breathing exercise (see earlier blog post for basics or purchase “The New TalkPower” book for more details) and pre-talk routine (purchase “The New TalkPower” book for more details).
  4. In your rehearsal you will end up in the front of an imaginary audience, facing the chair you have just left. Squeeze your toes three times and ask yourself the first question. Squeeze your toes three times and answer the question out loud. (In answering a question, don’t forget to repeat the question before you answer to give yourself time to frame your reply carefully). It’s very important to know when to stop speaking. As soon as you have answered the question, even if you feel like continuing to talk, force yourself to stop. 
  5. Since this is a rehearsal, you can allow yourself the luxury of speaking slowly. Do not try to rush your rehearsal responses. The slower, the better. As Michael Kane said in giving advice to a young actor “speak low, speak slow and don’t talk too much.”

I suggest that you rehearse standing up for the first four days to remind you of the formal setting in a courtroom. After the four days, you can sit down if you wish. Run through your list of questions two times for at least four days before your court appearance.

For more tips and instructions, we welcome you to attend our FINAL 2016 TalkPower Workshops on November 5&6 (if not satisfied, money back guaranteed). 

© 2000-2013 by Natalie H. Rogers

 

Social Silence

Trapped-silent-blaming themselves, phobic speakers hide among us. Millions of people who are so afraid of public exposure that they invent the most bizarre excuses to avoid speaking in public. Accidents, dead relatives, illnesses, robberies, and playing hooky, serve to avoid the dreadful task. These people have a common despair yet do not know one another and have no idea that so many others suffer as they do. 

Many other groups come out, talking openly about their problems. People in Twelve Steps programs, for example, find support, and dignity by telling their stories. They have learned the healing power of sharing and do not avoid speaking out. However, those with public speaking phobia would be horrified by such an idea. They have a terrible need for secrecy. Memories of past denigration are so painful that they are paralyzed by shame. Avoiding the natural impulse to reach out, they do not ask for help. Embarrassed, they withdraw and remain silent. 

Donald, a workshop participant, introduced himself as a nuclear engineer. He mentioned that he had an identical twin brother. Donald’s fear of public speaking was so intense that he found himself literally hiding from his manager on the days of the month when summary presentations were made. Later, when I asked if his brother had the same problem, Donald said he did not know. So deep was his shame that he had never even shared his problem with his twin brother. 

This story is typical. To avoid public speaking, speech-phobic clients turn down jobs, promotions, invitations to chair meetings, to teach, to make a toast, even to accept an award. One CEO of a major corporation told me sadly that he had been invited to speak all over the world, but could never go. Another man faint when he was nominate for an Oscar, so terrible was his anxiety about standing up to receive his award in public. 

“I feel very damaged... like I have a major disadvantage when I stand in front of other people and have to speak. I am like a non-person.” - Arthur, Architect

For more tips and instructions, please purchase “TalkPower: The mind-body way to speak without fear” or attend our FINAL 2016 TalkPower Workshops on November 5&6 (if not satisfied, money back guaranteed). 

© 2000-2013 by Natalie H. Rogers

Demystifying the “Problem”

I’ve tried everything

I have spent thousands of dollars and years of my life trying psychotherapy, hypnosis, dropping out of major training programs, to overcome a problem that TalkPower eliminated in one weekend. – Christine, human resources director

Fight or Flight… In the Boardroom?

When you are called on to speak and you feel threatened, the autonomic nervous system is activated, sending adrenaline and sugar into your bloodstream, revving up your body to meet the supposed danger, urging you to escape. As a result your beats faster, your muscles feel tense, your throat becomes dry, your stomach tightens, and you breathe using your chest muscles. This reaction to threat is known as the “fight of flight response.” This is exactly how you would react if you heard strange sounds outside your window in the middle of the night.

Since you are usually sitting or standing still as you wait to speak, and you cannot fight or run, you begin to feel trapped. This feeling of being trapped triggers such high levels of anxiety that your cerebral cortex (the thinking brain) shuts down and reasoning, logic, and speech are affected.

“I can’t seem to think straight,” you say. “I block, I become incoherent. I can’t make the most obvious connections.”

The interference with your thinking process is similar to what happens when you are worried, eat dinner and then have a case of indigestion. The indigestion occurs because, in a state of worry or stress, your brain does not send signals for the production of digestive juices. In other words, your digestive system, like your ability to think clearly, shuts down when your fight or flight response is activated.

Does Therapy Help?

Even though fear of speaking in public usually originates in childhood, or a post-traumatic stress reaction, the fact remains that speaking well in public is a complex skill. This skill requires systematic training to develop and manage the vast array of necessary neurological underpinnings, like thinking, organizing, remembering, and performance skills, as well as physical control. Compounding this is the element of high visibility, which is part and parcel of the public-speaking situation. This is why trying to learn to be comfortable when speaking in public, in a therapist’s office (as many of my clients have), is like trying to learn how to swim by talking about it.

As I have said, when people experiencing intense anxiety speak in public, their fearful thoughts trigger a fight or flight response that is a mechanical reaction, similar to a knee-jerk. This condition does not respond to reason, insight, positive thinking, understanding, or other cognitive processes.

It is true other phobias, like fear of flying, fear of tunnels, or fear of heights, respond positively to various therapeutic desensitization techniques, like systemic desensitization, relaxation training, flooding, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), and visualization techniques. But the one-dimensional aspect of these nonperformance phobias, where only you and your therapist are privy to your fears, is very different from the element of high visibility that accompanies public speaking. Consequently, these approaches do not diminish public-speaking anxiety.

If you have spent time in therapy, hoping to reverse your fear of speaking in public, and have had little or no results, don’t lost hope. As a matter of fact, in the past twenty years, hundreds of therapies, psychologists, analysts, lay counselors, psychiatrists, and priests have attended the TalkPower seminars and have overcome their own public-speaking discomfort.

For more tips and instructions, please purchase "TalkPower: The mind-body way to speak without fear" or attend one of our upcoming TalkPower Workshops on September 17&18 or November 5&6 (if not satisfied, money back guaranteed). 

© 2000-2013 by Natalie H. Rogers

 

Planning Makes Perfect

The Myth of Spontaneity

A young lawyer specializing in real estate law contacted my office for an emergency consultation. It was the very day before he was to appear on TV for a five-minute presentation. Not only was Jeff nervous, but also he knew there were going to be three other panelists, one of whom was highly critical of his position. We scheduled a meeting.

When I asked him to discuss what he intended to say, Jeff replied in a furtive manner, “Well, I don’t know exactly what I am going to say. You see, I want it to be spontaneous… when I get there and I hear the others I will know what I want to say. I don’t want to spoil the spontaneity of it all. I have my notes here, and I have to go over them with you.”

It took us two hours to figure out what it was that Jeff wanted to say in this five-minute presentation – two hours so that he would be on target, to the point, coming across as a professional who knew his business. We did the very best that we could, and his presentation went as well as it might have under the circumstances. However, it certainly would have made more sense if he had worked on this talk one week ahead of time, avoiding all of that misery and fright? Didn’t he deserve to use this opportunity to show himself off to his best advantage?

The Overnight Disaster

When people tell me they work best under pressure, I tell them that it is impossible to plan, write and rehearse a well-thought-out presentation one or two days before a scheduled appearance. A hurriedly assembled talk, with no time for rehearsals, is a big mistake, especially for people who have a problem with public speaking. That mistake is compounded by the fact that many people suffer from anticipatory anxiety, a severe form of distress, for days or even weeks before a presentation. It may take the form of sleepless nights, with constant worry and dread that the presentation will turn out to be a catastrophe.

As many studies have shown, anticipatory anxiety is usually associated with avoidance behavior. A person fearing a task will put off working on it until the last minute. As the deadline draws closer, your chances of coming up with a first-rate presentation grow dim and your anxiety and avoidance increases. A wonderful opportunity to show how smart and special you are is lost with a lackluster performance.

Rescue Remedy

The best way to overcome anticipatory anxiety is to get to work immediately. There is something about breaking down a task and making a detailed schedule that relieves anxiety as nothing else can.

In ‘The New TalkPower: A Panic Clinical for Public Speaking’, various charts and rehearsal schedules will help you plan, write, and rehearse your presentations. Copy them and use them each time you have to do a talk. There are also templates to show you exactly how to organize and edit the many words and ideas you are dealing with. The TalkPower game plan will prove invaluable for mapping out your basic organizational work in one or two pages. 

For more tips and instructions, please purchase "Talkpower: The mind-body way to speak without fear" or attend one of our upcoming Talkpower Workshops on September 17&18 or November 5&6 (if not satisfied, money back guaranteed). 

© 2000-2013 by Natalie H. Rogers

Breath is Life

Breathing Correctly

My students needed to learn how to calm themselves with slow diaphragmatic breath, using the stomach muscles to drive the breaths. I tried many different methods and finally, I devised a way that allowed the students to calm down. I asked my over-anxious students to keep their chests still and breathe by moving their bellies in and out. This is called “belly breathing,” or diaphragmatic breathing.

The first time I tried this system, it took only ten minutes to get the entire class doing it correctly. The results were miraculous! I had 100% belly breathing and every participant felt calmer and more relaxed. Of course, there were the usual comments: “This is like breathing backward. I never breathe like this. I am not getting air,” proving that it is not easy to correct a bad habit.

Nevertheless, soon everyone was breathing correctly, and not one person was confused about what to do. With a few students, I had to actually push my fist into their stomachs, asking them to push back so that they could feel how their abdominal muscles move. (Some had not moved for years!) Eventually even they were doing correct belly breathing in the class. Everyone was amazed at how easy it was, and how totally relaxed they felt. At last they were clear about how to breathe correctly. Most importantly, they would never again go through the torture of severe anticipatory anxiety while waiting their turn to speak.

Deep Breathing vs Shallow Breathing

 A common misconception is that deep breathing is good and shallow breathing is bad. Students always ask: “You mean when they tell you to take a deep breath, it’s all wrong?” The fact is you can breathe incorrectly when you do deep breathing, when you do shallow breathing, when you take in big gasps of air, or when you are barely breathing. The only criterion for correct breathing is whether or not your belly is moving in and out (diaphragmatic breathing).

However, there is a time when chest breathing is correct. And this is when you are doing any kind of cardiovascular activity, such as jogging or dancing because in these instances the accelerated activities neutralize the adrenaline. Although, adrenaline is very necessary when doing high energy activities, adrenaline production that is not accompanied by vigorous physical activity will certainly trigger anxiety. For our purposes, learning a simple procedure (like belly breathing) can mean the difference between a panic attack and remaining in control, before during your talk.

How to Move Your Belly

 The purpose of the following warm-up is to help you feel how your abdominal muscles move in preparation for correct belly breathing.

1.     Sit in a chair in a quiet room. Place both feet on the floor.

2.     Put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest.

3.     To the count of five, slowly and gently pull your belly in. (Do not pull in tightly.) As you do this, your chest should be as still as possible.

4.     Hold this for three counts. (Think: “1-2-3.”)

5.     Slowly release the belly to the count of five (do not move your chest).

6.     Do this three times. Place your hand on your stomach, and feel the abdominal muscles (belly muscles) tighten and relax.

Note: Since you probably breathe incorrectly, using your chest to do the pumping instead of your belly, the only way that you will be able to learn how to do slow belly breathing properly is to try to keep your chest as still as possible. Some people must continue to practice very carefully for several weeks before they feel comfortable breathing correctly.

 For more tips and instructions, please purchase "Talkpower: The mind-body way to speak without fear" or attend one of our upcoming Talkpower Workshops (if not satisfied, money back guaranteed). 

© 2000-2013 by Natalie H. Rogers

 

The Q&A

The Audience Has A Turn

 

“I have the answer. What was the question?” – Gertrude Stein

 

After years of critiquing speakers, including excellent and fearless ones, I realize that the real conclusion to most speeches happens not when the speaker makes her concluding remarks, but when the Q&A is over.

 In the final moment that follow the answer to the last question, when the speaker, slightly dazed from the energetic give-and-take of the Q&A, mumbles her farewell, moving away from the podium, she is relieved – the ordeal is over. This type of exit is so abrupt, so lacking in style that I have often said to myself, “There must be a more elegant way to depart, more fitting for the role of leadership.” There is! I suggest that instead of asking for questions after the conclusion, you do it before the conclusion.

 Yes, you read that correctly! Do your Q&A before you do your conclusion. This gives you the last word, allowing you to regain any points you may have lost. Even if you were challenged by some members of the audience during the Q&A, you still have another chance to voice your ideas during the conclusion. This is how.

 Before I conclude, are there any questions?

1.   Say the last words of your last climax point.

Squeeze your toes three times.

2.   Say, “Before I conclude, are there any questions?

3.   Answer as many questions as you have time for.

4.   Near the end of your Q&A time, say, “We have time for one more question?

5.   Answer the last question…. Squeeze your toes three times.

6.   Say, “In conclusion…

7.   Do your conclusion.

8.   Say, “Thank you.

9.   Squeeze your toes three times.

10.                 Walk back to your seat with style and confidence, saying to yourself, “I slowly walk back to my seat… I feel my hands.

11.                 Sit down… Do ten belly breaths (reenter the group).

 

The Real Purpose of the Q&A

The purpose of a question and answer segment is to add variety to your presentation by giving members of the audience a limited opportunity to participate. When responding to their questions, your objective is to project likability, present yourself and your point of view as calmly, smoothly, and credibly as possible, and hold your position of leadership.

 Some participants of my TalkPower seminars feel more comfortable with the Q&A because it gives them a chance to respond directly.

 Yes, but…

The other seventy percent dread it. Here are the reasons:

“I will not know the answer and I will look foolish or stupid.”

“I am afraid I will have thought-blocking and just stand there like an idiot.”

“I will not be able to articulate a good answer on the spot.”

“I will feel out of control.”

“I am afraid that it will be a question that I will not want to answer.”

“I am afraid that I will get a hostile question, and I will just shut down.”

“I feel I will be exposed and everyone will realize how little I really know, and then they will know that I am not as smart as they think I am.”

 All of these responses speak to the past, when you had no tools to deal with your loss of confidence and fear. Using the TalkPower method to maintain concentration under fire will significantly change the way you handle questions in the future. In addition, the following discussion will help you through this very threatening and potentially dangerous section of your talk.

 

© 2000-2013 by Natalie H. Rogers