Public speaking: how to get over your fears with warmth and ease

I used to have terrible stage fright. Having to give my first speech in the required junior high speech class was something to be endured, and when I finished, I didn’t care how well I did, I was so glad I had gotten through it and would never have to do it again.

If I recall correctly, I read it aloud and (this is embarrassing) stood with my legs crossed, as if I was holding it in. I’m pretty sure my voice shook. Afterwards, I slunk back to my seat. The topic may have been “seashells.”

I did not fail, to my surprise. The teacher gave me a C. The content was good, but my presentation needed work. (I am a writer.)

I watched the kids who presented well. I remember a girl who showed us how to make “hors d’oeuvres” (including how she “about died” when told how to spell it).

Then she passed them around. She’s probably a politician now.

That was a long time ago. Over many years, classes, jobs, and activities, I got more used to speaking to groups and felt more confident that I had something worthwhile to contribute. Sometimes it even happened on the spur of the moment, and afterwards I realized I’d been so absorbed, I’d forgotten to be afraid.

Several years back, I participated in “the Alan Steinborn experience” back when Alan lived in Austin. I cannot remember now what he called these gatherings, but he hosted people in his home where part of the experience was standing in silence in front of people (most of whom were strangers), not doing or saying anything, just standing there with all eyes on you for several minutes. People applauded before and after, and in between, whatever happened happened. Some were visibly petrified and gradually relaxed. Some were comfortable the whole time. Most were in between.

It was wonderful to get up there, breathe, relax, and experience connecting with others. It became a sort of communion where fear fell away. I became curious, looking into the eyes of each member of the audience.

Also in recent years, I’ve taken a two-day class in public speaking through Austin Community College, for work. The class had a lot of lecture and required three brief presentations…and the main thing I recall now is the professor exclaiming (after my first presentation, in front of everyone) about my “charisma”.

I still don’t know exactly what charisma is and whether to be pleased or embarrassed about it. But perhaps my experience with Alan’s gatherings had something to do with that.

After all, if you can be comfortable standing silently in front of an audience, you’ll probably be okay speaking.

Recently I’ve been considering developing my public speaking skills. I could talk about health practices to counteract sedentary jobs, the benefits of massage and bodywork, self-care for massage therapists, trauma and recovery, meditation — you know, the topics that I’ve blogged about that are so close to my heart.

It’s not that I’m bad at public speaking any more. I deliver good material, include some fun stuff, and connect with the audience.

But I could be even more at ease.

A few weekends ago, I attended a workshop called “Authentic Public Speaking” from NLP Resources Austin. The presenter, Keith Fail, is a friend and teacher of mine. I’ve studied and later coached/assisted at NLP training that he co-taught, taken advanced NLP classes that he taught, and heard him speak at the NLP meetup multiple times (indeed, when I served as program chair and a speaker didn’t show up, he was able to wing it with ease, he’s that good). I’ve hung out with him and his wife, Katie Raver, a lot. We’ve traveled in Maui together. They are ohana to me: family of choice.

Keith is a warm, friendly, lovable, perceptive, smart man. He is familiar with Alan’s work and includes it, adding his own substantial and unique stamp to offer a public speaking class like no other.

He’s also an accomplished public speaker. Keith shared a story that illustrated his aplomb with public speaking even while in high school. It involved walking in just as he was being introduced and needing to pull up his zipper, with all eyes on him. Ask him about it! The man just knows how to tell a good story!

This class is not an NLP class. You don’t need any NLP training to attend, although a few of my fellow students and I had training in it. If it’s new to you, you will come away knowing more about NLP as it applies to public speaking. You may then be drawn to take NLP training — who knows?

The 11 students met in a comfortable North Austin home. (One student couldn’t make it; class size is limited to 12, and it usually fills up.) My fellow students came from a variety of backgrounds — software engineer, entrepreneur, new board member, several in real estate, insurance adjuster, academic adviser, musician/hypnotist/coach — all with an interest in improving their public speaking skills.

Our time was spent on a good mixture of Keith sharing information and stories, exercises with partners, feedback and discussion, a worksheet, a little homework, several very useful handouts, and, of course, getting up in front of everyone several times.

Yes, everyone does get up in the front of the room and stand in silence, and Keith will share how to make this easy. One woman (who said her business partners made her attend) balked at doing it, but she decided to do it anyway and was glad she did. By the end of the class, she was giving good presentations with apparent ease.

We did extemporaneous speaking illustrating one of our values. Whoa. That makes it sound very formal. Let me rephrase that: We got up and told a story about something important to us, and after everyone had spoken, we discussed what worked.

On the second day, Keith talked about the different energies that speakers experience and utilize. Keith led us through some experiential work developing and drawing on these energies. This was delightful and new to me in this context, and very useful.

Toward the end of the class, Keith pointed out that rather than being just a class about public speaking, it was actually training in perception and attention.

Keith videotapes your last presentation and afterwards, he emails it to you. Then does a follow-up call with you.

All I know is that by the end of the class, we students all felt much more at ease with each other and in the front of the room, thanks to Keith’s personal warmth and well-developed teaching skills.

It might even have felt like love, acceptance, and compassion for ourselves and for each other.

Just imagine. I will have that to draw on the next time I give a presentation. I can hardly wait!

If you are interested, Keith offers this class several times a year. You can get the details at NLP Resources Austin.

NO HOSTAGES BEYOND THIS POINT: Teaching Magical Viewpoints to female sex offenders

A sign on the main entrance gate to the Hilltop Unit, part of the Gatesville, Texas, prison complex, says “NO HOSTAGES BEYOND THIS POINT”.

It appears twice, on each side of the gate, so visitors see this message as they enter and as they leave.

These signs provide a strong clue that you’re entering a different world at Hilltop, and that you will leave it changed.

Ann, the social worker who runs the Sex Offenders Treatment Program (SOTP) for women, escorted my friend Peggy Lamb and me to the dorm where the women in the program live. Peggy is a facilitator for Truth Be Told, a nonprofit working with women behind and beyond bars. She teaches movement and also brings in presenters for Truth Be Told’s Exploring Creativity workshops at the Hilltop Unit.

I was there at her invitation to teach an Exploring Creativity class called Magical Viewpoints, a basic skill in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) where it is also called “triple description”.

Ann led us through the dorm. I’ve visited prisons several times over the past 10 years for Truth Be Told events and graduations. This was the first time I’ve seen the inmates’ living quarters. It’s about as basic as you can get at Hilltop. In one big room, each inmate has a space about 6×4 feet in which there is a single bed (looked like 3-4 inches of mattress on a wooden platform), a storage locker under the bed, and perhaps a small table and chair. These “cells” are separated by wooden partitions about 3.5 feet high, so there is very little privacy. Everything looks old and is painted white. There is no decor. There is no air conditioning either.

We walked to the common area behind the sleeping quarters where the women were waiting for us. The inmates wear white uniforms and choose from a couple of styles of standard-issue shoes (sneakers or short boots). Those who wear eyeglasses wear a plain no-nonsense unisex style that harkens back to the men’s eyewear of the 1950s. No one is wearing makeup. Hairdos are plain and simple.

This room had murals and posters on the white walls, which I was told is not so in other units at Hilltop. A humongous fan was blowing, making a loud racket, along with a couple of smaller fans. We turned that big fan off and used an old, temperamental PA system to make ourselves heard.

Peggy introduced me, and it was obvious that these women love Peggy. (I’m feeling very pleased that I brought Peggy into Truth Be Told. That worked out well. She has made the most of it.)

I taught the women about using first, second, and third position to understand an event from their own eyes and through another’s eyes and to view it as a camera would. First they remembered looking at a piece of art they had created in the previous Exploring Creativity class taught by Peg Runnels, seeing it through their own eyes. Then they remembered seeing another artist creating their art and making those same movements. Finally, they imagined seeing the art, with the artist putting the finishing touches on it, and seeing themselves viewing it.

I did a demo using these three viewpoints on a conflict situation with a wonderful volunteer, Carla, and then I led them as a group through the process, watching them step into imaginary circles for each position. I watched very carefully, and it appeared to me that each woman got it.

Then they journaled about the experience, made art about it, and a few of them shared their art and their experience of doing the exercise. Their homework was to do it with a different event in mind and journal about it for Peggy. Their six opportunities to learn and deepen this skill will serve them well, perhaps for the rest of their lives.

I asked them for their feedback on the three magical viewpoints. Which one gave them the most new information? It surprised me that second position was so powerful for them. I had expected that third position would be the real revelation (the cool sense of detachment often is), but Ann told me that a major goal of the SOTP is learning empathy for the victims of their crimes, and so learning about and experiencing second position strengthened that goal.

Then our time was up. They honored Peggy by giving her a sweet, gigantic homemade card on which each woman had written a personal thank you to her for volunteering with them.

I’ve heard many women tell their stories at TBT graduations over the past decade. Chaos is in every story. Prison provides the security to examine their lives, something many have never done or even been exposed to before getting involved with Truth Be Told’s programs.

That’s the first step toward true rehabilitation. Then there’s the support and learning and accomplishment they get through connection with Truth Be Told.

I’m feeling very lucky and grateful to have had the good fortune to connect with Truth Be Told when it was an infant nonprofit, to have helped nurture it into stability, to step back when life had other plans for me, and to reconnect via teaching a useful life skill.

I want to thank Keith Fail, NLP trainer at NLP Resources Austin, for his support. He and I (mostly he) taught Magical Viewpoints at the Lockhart prison in the fall of 2011. He was training people in Europe when this teaching opportunity came up. I winged it as well as prepped myself, learned a lot, and had a blast!

NLP practitioner training starts this weekend! First responder can be my guest! Others: $100!

I’ve been asked to post this on my blog, and I am very happy to oblige.

NLP Practitioner training, offered by Best Resources/Texas Institute of NLP, begins this weekend, March 31-April 1, 2012. The training takes 16 days, on weekends only, ending in mid-August.

As a graduate, I get to make this special offer:

The first person who gets back to me with a “yes” can attend the first weekend for free. Please call me (512 507 4184) so I can get your name on the list of free guests.

Anyone else can attend the first weekend for only $100. Follow the link at the bottom of this post to register.

The entire tuition is $2,200 if paid in full by March 31. Payment plans are also available for $400 per month or $285 per training weekend, discounting the first weekend’s $100.

NLP stands for Neuro-Linguistic Programming. It has been called the science of subjective experience, and it’s a super-duper set of people skills. (It’s also called “Now Let’s Play”.)

The training is part lecture/part demo and very interactive. You get to practice each skill taught during the training, and (usually) study groups form during the training.

Who can benefit from taking this training?

  • people who want to understand themselves and others better
  • people who want to deepen their relationship skills
  • people who want to experience more congruence and less internal conflict
  • people who want to improve their communication and language skills
  • people who want to experience more success in life
  • people who work in sales, management, and business
  • parents, coaches, helping professionals, health professionals, and teachers
  • anyone interested in personal growth and living from their highest values

At the end of the training, you will have more behavioral choices, more emotional flexibility, better rapport skills, better negotiation skills, and more confidence in your choices and decisions.

You may make lifelong friends who become like a second family to you — I certainly have.

Tom Best has been offering NLP training for 26 years. He works in the U.S. and internationally, in South America, Europe, Hawaii, Bali, and elsewhere. He draws on his background in cultural anthropology and interest in shamanism. (NLP unveils the secrets of shamanism!) We’re very lucky to have him offer this training in Central Texas.

Trainer Keith Fail has been teaching NLP for 18 years, with a focus on technology businesses and now individual coaching.

NOTE: I’ve taken this training twice, once as a student and once as a training assistant/coach. Master Practitioner training will be offered in 2013. I highly recommend both.

Click this link to learn more and to register.

What if there is no “normal” to return to after long-term PTSD? Be unfaithful to your sorrows.

I tagged a customer review of a book on Amazon because it moved me and I wanted to track comments on the review. It spoke to me.

(The book is In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness by Peter A. Levine, author of Waking the Tiger, a book that changed my life.)

Fred wrote:

I agree with the comments about this book. I have the book and a couple of his other ones and I learned from them, they were my first knowledge of what trauma could do. I want to make a specific trauma comment and since the author has helped me alot what better place to do it!

At age 60 I am finally and only recently past the terror of early, continuous and prolonged childhood abuse because of the healing work I have done on my own. I recommend books and techniques from Alice Miller, Peter Levine (of course!), David Berceli, Babette Rothschild, EMDR, EFT, PARTS/EGO STATES work, NLP. I am a little leery about unsupervised guided imagery and meditation because they can be so close to dissociation, I sure did.

My comment is that with early abuse in whatever form the child has to create coping and defensive mechanisms to be able to survive mentally. These PARTs then prevent the child from growing naturally like all children should. As an adult these PARTS drew me to abusers and perpetuated actions which continued to retraumatize me. I didn’t know any better.

People who experience trauma as adults can use the techniques the author describes and those listed above to get back to normal. I have come to the awful realization that I have no NORMAL to go back to! My former desires and reasons for living no longer exist. They were based on avoiding reality, lessening the pain and terror, and plowing through dissociation to be able to function. While I don’t have the terror anymore I am still trauma parallyzed (Freeze, surrender) as I have been for most of these 6 decades and I don’t have the NORMAL interests and motivations which would help me get past that. “I” do not exist.

My hope from this review is that this Catch 22 can be added to trauma discussions. I don’t know what can be done to create a resource or if there are even more people like me out there.

I guess a correlary is to emphasize the need to help children who do experience trauma, as early as possible. (Another of the author’s books.)

Fred says there’s no normal to return to because of childhood abuse.

I ask Fred and others who have experienced long-term PTSD who don’t believe they have anything like a “normal” self to return to:

What if “normal” is an illusion? What if there is no normal?

Really, if your trauma began at age 1 or 11 or 21, the “returning to normal” is returning to how you were before the trauma began. What would it look like for a 60-year-old healing trauma victim to return to being a normal one year old? It doesn’t seem to work like that.

Perhaps “normal” is a concept that the mind desires that doesn’t really exist. Even for so-called “normal” people!

If that’s the case, then I say you get to determine what normal means for you.

Maybe normal means being a more present, heart-centered, resourceful person.

Maybe normal means finding what you believe you missed out on: a sense of worthiness, love, inner peace, trust, self-respect, and so on.

Maybe it’s having a strong connection to an enlightened witness. Maybe that enlightened witness is an inner part, Divine Essence, or another person.

Maybe normal is being a valued member of a community and building close relationships.

Maybe normal is being playful and having fun. Maybe it’s setting the boundaries you need to thrive.

Maybe normal is feeling centered in your body and having your energy flow freely, and learning how to return to that state when you become uncentered or blocked.

Maybe it’s wanting to experience the most joy, connection, sanity, and love — both giving and receiving — as you can and having a damn good reason for doing so. Living really well is the best revenge and the best healing you can possibly do.

Imagine that you fully and completely have the experience of being normal. What would that do for you ? Let’s hear it! “Then I’d be…”

And what would that do for you?

Take it as far as you can and enjoy experiencing that staate.

There’s a Zen phrase “unfaithful to my sorrows” that I use on my About me page. To me, it means that no matter what your sorrows are, or how many or deep they are, or how long you’ve had them, there are at least moments when you’re unfaithful to them — times when you forget them and notice something else. A rainbow. Some music. A dream image. A dust bunny. A release of tension.

We tend to believe we’re defined by our sorrows and traumas, but we’re not. We can let these non-sorrow moments become large.

Krishnamurti put it like this:

What can be described is the known, and the freedom from the known can come into being only when there is a dying every day to the known, to the hurts, the flatteries, to all the images you have made, to all your experiences— dying every day so that the brain cells themselves become fresh, young, innocent.

My dear friend Keith Fail says it more simply,

We’re always bigger than we think we are.

Massage, brainwaves, NLP, work, yoga, women in prison, Gurdjieffian book group, trailer, and more

Life is going pretty well. Knock wood, right?

I’m doing well in massage school. Got in some great practice on three people outside of school this past Wednesday, ahead of Thursday’s practical exam. I have a major written test next week and then a week off. It’s hard to believe that I’m about halfway through!

Tomorrow it will be three months since I finished brainwave optimization. I am glad I did it. I feel more centered, my memory is better, and so is my focus. It’s been worth the expense, and I can still go back for individual sessions if I feel the need. It’s been helpful with juggling school/trailer/moving/remodeling/working and so on.

I’m looking forward to doing some gamma wave enhancement when my trainer Gigi Turner at NeuroBeginnings is ready and I have time.

Also, I can have a drink now! You are warned not to drink alcohol during the training and for three months afterward. Kinda makes me wonder what alcohol actually does to the brain. Any drinking I do will be very light — my alcohol tolerance is low.

I did an NLP session with a friend today and picked up a freelance writing/editing job for her website! This is my second recent website writing job. I love doing this for people who have created and are running their small businesses that make the world a better, healthier place, people who are living their passions. I’m looking for more work like that.

I posted my technical writing resume on Monster.com a couple of weeks ago. I’m looking to work 20 hours a week at most, flex-time and telecommuting preferred. Meanwhile, I’m open to doing freelance writing and editing, as well as more yoga and NLP coaching.

I’d love to teach yoga out of my trailer to individuals or small groups (up to 4 max). I’m putting this out there so if you know anyone in South Austin who’d like a small class with more personal attention, you can refer them to me.

I’m considering teaching a donation-only class on Saturday mornings until the weather gets cold. I plan to check out Searight Park in my neighborhood as a possible location. I have Sun Salutations on my mind!

I’ve been attending a weekly class in Anusara yoga at Castle Hill taught by Brigitte Edery or Liz Belile, both great teachers who stimulate and challenge the mind and body. It’s a natural segue from my Iyengar-based training. Love the attention to awareness.

Next week I’m going with Keith Fail into the state prison in Lockhart to teach some basic NLP to women in prison, as part of Truth Be Told‘s Exploring Creativity program. We’ll teach triple description — first, second, and third position, like first, second, and third person in English class, only applying it to your real life. Perceptual flexibility is a fabulous skill to teach, and I’m looking forward to it.

I’m participating in a book group, reading Life in the Labyrinth, by E.J. Gold. This is my first foray into the Gurdjieffian lineage, not counting my longtime interest in the Enneagram. The group has been meeting for a while, and I’m honored to have been invited. We take turns reading aloud, covering a chapter a week, and enjoying some stimulating discussion.

I’ve signed up for a one-day workshop at Lauterstein-Conway later this month on cranio-sacral massage. I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I received CST every month for 2-3 years from Nina Davis. It is a fascinating branch on the massage family tree.

Week after next, I’m trading two hours of Swedish massage, with all the extras, for a two-hour lomi lomi (Hawaiian style) massage with James Moore. Really looking forward to that! I haven’t had a lomi lomi massage yet but have read about the Hawaiian healers who have kept this art alive.

Last, the trailer. I’m working on finding the best weatherstripping for the aluminum jalousie windows — something that will last that I can buy in bulk for the 48 windows, which have had the old, melted weatherstripping painstakingly removed.

Then, I hope to replace the nonworking sliding glass doors at the entry with something that works and build an entry deck. I’ve been using the back door to come and go.

Oh, and I must share this! August 2011 was the hottest month in the hottest year on record in Austin. It was also my first full month of having AC in the trailer. Friends have been telling me about their outrageous electric bills — as much as $400.

My AC ran nearly all day every day in August. I worried about my bill being outrageous.

The August bill was $100. Whew! Jon Esquivel at Austin Star Services did a good job getting a good unit in this trailer. For that I am grateful.

Other tasks coming up include plumbing and wiring my shed for a washer and dryer, getting some good window coverings and installing them, and planting more trees and a fall garden with some edible landscaping.

I am really, really loving my life now and the direction it’s going. It’s scary to make a big change in direction like I did, and it is working out well. Knock wood!