One of the things I am regularly asked for are tips about how to overcome nerves or reduce anxiety just before a big presentation. There are a number of ways you can do this using techniques from NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming; read more about it here), but one of the simplest is to use positive visualization. If you've never tried this before it might sound strange, but believe me - if you do it properly IT WILL WORK. But just as you wouldn't go to the gym once and suddenly be fit after a single visit, you'll need to do this a number of times until it becomes embedded in your brain.
Sit down in a comfortable chair, close your eyes and relax. While you may feel nervous about public speaking, you are very confident about many other aspects of your life. Think about a situation you've been in when you felt extremely confident.
See everything you saw then, and hear everything you heard. Think about the following (they are called 'submodalities'; read more about submodalities here):
Are you in experiencing the memory through your own eyes (i.e. are you actually there, reliving it?) or are you watching it as if it's on a TV screen.
Is the volume loud or soft? Are the sounds clear or indistinct?
Do you feel hot or cold?
Is it a still image or a video? Is it clear or blurred? Bright or dim?
Is it surrounded by a frame or border, or is it panoramic (i.e., all around you)?
Is it life size, bigger or smaller? Far away or near to you?
- Is it black and white or color? Are the colors bright or dim?
Don't view yourself as if you are on a movie screen. Instead, step forward into the picture of your body so that you are experiencing the situation first hand (i.e. associated ).
If the image is far away, bring it very close. Make it bigger, then bigger still, then even bigger and if there is a border around it, get rid of it and make it panoramic so that if you were to turn around in a circle you could see it all around you. If the image is black and white, make it Technicolor. Make the colors brighter and more vivid.
Next make the sounds louder and crisper. If you can't hear any external sounds, are you saying anything to yourself? Say it louder. Do you have a favorite piece of motivational music (e.g. 'Eye of the Tiger,' Wagner's 'Ride of the Valkyries' or the theme from 'Rocky')? If so, play it loudly, in stereo.
By now you will be feeling confident. Note where those feelings start in your body - in your chest perhaps, or stomach. Let them spread throughout your body so that they reach out to your fingertips and your toes, so that they infuse every fibre and molecule of your body. Feel them burn into your cheeks.
Give the feelings a color, and then make that color brighter and more intense (this is important - it helps the visualization.).
Double the feelings' intensity and then double it again. Take those feelings and spin them around inside your body; then spin them faster and make them grow to the point where they are trying to burst out of your body.
Now feel them seeping out through your skin, flowing over the surface of your body, and hardening into a hard, colorful, indestructible shell. You are invincible behind this shell; it is like armour. With this shell you can do nothing wrong. Nothing can harm you.
Now . . . just when you feel that the feelings are reaching their peak, you need to anchor it by doing three things (read more about 'anchoring' here).
First, select a visual image of a person that epitomizes confidence to you. This would be James Bond for me, but it can be your favorite politician or sports star. In fact, anyone you like (it could even be Eeyore from Winnie The Pooh if that's who floats your boat ..... it's your choice).
Second, say a phrase to yourself such as ' Just #*/@# do it' or ' Let's go' or ' Time to rock' or ' It's showtime' or ' Make it so' or ' Infinity and Beyond !' or whatever happens to appeal to you personally. This is your anchor, nobody else's. It doesn't matter if it's silly - nobody else can hear it. If you can't think of a phrase, replay a snatch of that motivational music.
Third, squeeze your first finger and thumb tightly together for 3-5 seconds whilst seeing that image and hearing that phrase.
Now open your eyes. Congratulations. You have just anchored that touch and phrase with feelings of confidence.
Close your eyes again. Now think about a situation from your past when you were about to stand up and speak in public. See everything you saw then and hear everything you heard, and start to feel how you felt. Just as the negative feelings are taking hold, press your thumb and first finger firmly together and repeat your chosen motivational phrase.
How do you feel now? Do you still feel anxious or nervous? Even if you did not suddenly burst with confidence, at the very least your nerves and anxiety should have lessened considerably or disappeared. If not, don't worry. THIS WILL WORK.
These changes need reinforcing immediately if they are to be long lasting. Practice the above exercise about three times per day for the next week. Every time you do so it will become more effective.
Constant reinforcement carves out a neurological pathway that in time will become a motorway. However, this needs to be done with emotional intensity until your newfound confidence becomes an integral part of your belief system.
I'll say it again - THIS WILL WORK. But not if you only do it once.
Other confidence exercises:
All these exercises are included in my Whole-Brain Presenting Ebook. Click here for details.