So you have to give a speech? What to do before you panic…

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In last week’s post, How do you let go of fear? Give it what it wants, you learned about the mechanism responsible for the fear reaction. You learned that, once your body goes into reaction-mode, it’s a downward spiral.

So, how can you prepare to speak so that your first response isn’t panic?

In groups like toastmasters, speakers can tackle their stage fright, head-on, with repeated practice. As one toastmaster enthusiast wrote: “Smack your fear in the face!” This direct approach can and does work. 

But each person’s experience of fear around public speaking is different. This approach might not work for you. Sometimes repetition, and telling yourself that you can do it, even when you feel like you’re debilitated by it, increases the power fear holds over you even more. Sometimes by trying to pretend, repress or numb yourself to fear, it’s power actually increases. And it comes out in surprising way, at times that is least desirable. Yes, I’m speaking from personal experience.

“The defenses we erect to protect us create the very condition we are trying to avoid.” Alexander Lowen

Plus, once you numb yourself to fear, you also numb yourself to inspiration, joy and sadness (see what Brene Brown has to say about selectively numbing emotion). You cut yourself off from your own vulnerability; and vulnerability is the secret to make an authentic and lasting connection with your audience. 

So, how do you let fear be a valuable source of energy, but don’t let it run the show? 

Give your body what it wants …

Fear will override your body’s natural intelligence and make you go into Fight Flight or Freeze reaction (FFF), especially when you are taken off guard and/or entering into unknown territory. Imagine, for a moment, the difference between a surprise ambush in unknown territory and a carefully plotted offense on your home turf. So, to prepare your body for battle, give it as much information, beforehand, as you can.

If there is one thing I learned in actor training, it is this: if there is a void, your body will fill it with fear.

There are a few things that your body needs in order to feel safe, secure, at home and in control. If you give it these things, you are letting it know that it doesn’t have to go into panic or freeze, that you are OK in this moment and you don’t need to leave.

What does your body want? 

1. A familiar environment. Walk into the space where you will be presenting when it’s empty, let your body feel familiar with how you will get up out of your chair and walk to the podium. Practice looking out at the empty chairs, breathing, and allowing the fear (you will already feel) flow through you.

2. Friends to talk to: Practice your presentation out loud and in front family or friends. Practice, again, by yourself, imagining you’re speaking to that friend. Do it again, but this time, imagine you’re delivering it to someone who might intimidate you. Notice that, even with this extra sensory input, you can do it.

3. Relaxation: Sleep, eat well, drink plenty of water for the days leading up to the presentation. Rehearse for a few minutes everyday, to form a muscle memory of your talk. Take a moment of silence or meditation on the morning of your big day, reminding yourself of your purpose in speaking. Give yourself a neck massage. This stimulates glands in you neck that actually calm your body’s alarm system. 

4. And finally, a good warm up: A soccer player wouldn’t enter the field without first elevating his heart rate and warming up his body. That would be too much of a shock to his system. Similarly, an actor would never walk on stage without first doing a warmup. So, stretch your body, the parts that feels stiff. Stretch your face, your lips and your tongue. Take a few deep breaths with your arms lifted above your head and then curl over slowly, allowing yourself to hang from your waist. On your next exhale, let out a big sigh.

Next up, How stop panic before it starts? Give your mind the information it wants.What do you tell yourself before you stand up in front of an audience to present? How can you change the story that you walk in with? Maybe it’s time to have some answers for your inner critic BEFORE you step up to the mic. 

Need more information on how to fight fear before it starts? Here’s a link to useful body language to use before and during your presentation. More of me atRebeccacmartin.com!

10 wholistic practices to increase your odds of landing the job

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You have the expertise, job history and experience to qualify for your dream job, but you are still not landing the position.  You have prepared your content to perfection, so what else could it possibly be?

Your body language, presence and the silent conversation your body is having with others in the room might be having a huge effect on your success rate.

Neuroscience research shows that the subconscious rules our behavior 95-99% of the time. Without knowing it, most of us are undermining our interpersonal and professional credibility, simply because we’re not aware of what we’re communicating on a physical, vocal and energetic level.

So you google  “body language interview tips” and you get stock answers that sometimes work and sometimes don’t. In the best case, the stars align and you eek by, just barely. In the worst case, they make you seem less human, too slick, and fake. 

Why body language interview tips DON’T work:

When I first started practicing yoga, I was just following the form— the shape that my instructor’s body was making at the front of the class. I didn’t learn how to embody the asanas until I started to understand what the pose was supposed to accomplish.

Learning the form was good training, but at a certain point, in order to rise to the next level, I needed to understand why. I believe the same to be true for interview preparation and coaching. It’s not enough to learn the forms, you have to learn the why.

For example, standing tall or sitting up straight with good posture can quickly look arrogant or hollow. This exudes in-authenticity if all you’re doing is practicing the form or posturing.

In contrast, if you are able to stand powerfully, knowing that your feet need to be planted squarely beneath your hips and your weight, balanced equally between the balls of your feet and heels, then that gives you a presence of weight, authority and gravitas.

Or, if you allow yourself to sit with a straight spine in your seat, knowing that this is enabling your body to take a deep, diaphragmatic breath,  then you are sending an authentic signal of confidence to your self, your nervous system and your audience.

The crucial tip that WILL make you stand out from the crowd:

Often we over prepare the content for these high-stakes situations but we don’t prepare physically or emotionally. We only take care of one part of ourselves. Any small thing can then knock us off our game and send us into a state of defensiveness and mental muddiness. This is not only communicated to your interviewer but it has a spiral effect on your own nervous system. So, here’s how you prepare efficiently and effectively for the success of your whole being:

Before the interview:

Practice diaphragmatic breathing. 4 counts on the inhale, 4 counts on the exhale. Put a hand on your belly to make sure that you are releasing as low down as possible. You can place a hand on your back to make sure that you are breathing three dimensionally. Try filling up your lungs from the bottom to top, imagining that your lungs are balloons filling with air.

Practice a powerful neutral stance, first while standing, then sitting down. Then, try transitioning from walking in, to sitting down, like you’ll be doing in your interview. At all times, your feet are planted firmly beneath you and are in parallel. Your hips are over your heels, your shoulders are over your hips. You can imagine that your head has a string pulling out the top and your chest is slightly raised. 

Warm up your voice. Find a closed space and practice rumbling as low as you can go. Often we want this deep resonance in our voice. It adds authority and weight to our ideas. It also sends a message to our bodies and our interviewer that we are relaxed. When we’re nervous our voices tend to jump a pitch, often because tension has risen to our throat. The more you can practice a lower pitch, the more you will feel relaxed and send a message of authority.

Move your face and body, tensing and releasing, before you walk into the interview. Often, we’ll prepare by staring at a computer screen or reading or notes over and again with our face down and brow furrowed. Our face will then remain frozen in ways that don’t communicate our excitement or enthusiasm for the position. 

During the interview:

Focus on this the other person. Often we’re so worried about how we’re coming across, we forget that others might be having the exact same experience. Try this, focus on the other person. What can you do to make them feel comfortable? In an awkward pause, be curious about them. Have a list of questions that you know you can pull out if needs be. Ask a question and then focus on listening and really hearing the answer.

Re-set the playing field. How often have you walked into an interview and you’ve been taken off guard? Something they said has thrown you for a loop, or something happened in your personal life, just before you walked through the door, or something in the room has made you uncomfortable. This type of experience can make or break an interview. If you do not take the time to make yourself comfortable, you not only fail to set yourself up for the possibility of success but your looking uncomfortable makes the interviewer feel uncomfortable. This also a great way to reset the playing field so that your interviewer knows that your’e in control.

Find your center and stay there. Often, we’ll lean forward to try to look engaged or lean back to try to look confident. Don’t do either, stay in your center. This is not only sending a signal of strength and ease to your interviewer but it is sending a signal of safety to yourself. When answering a question try to keep your head level, your eyes level and stay in your center. If you start to lean or swerve, notice what made you feel that this was necessary. You’ll probably begin to notice that you’ll only do this if you’re not sure about what you’re saying or in some ways trying to “dodge” a reaction from the other person. Try to ask and answer questions “head on.”

Plant your feet and point your toes where you want to direct your focus. Try noticing which way your toes naturally point. Your feet will naturally fall pointing towards where you instinctively want to go. Often, this is right out the door. Instead, try pointing them towards the interviewer to send the signal that you want to be exactly where you are right now.

Put your hands where people can see them and allow gestures to come into play. We want to see where your hands are. It makes us more comfortable. Maybe so we know you don’t have a hidden agenda. Allow your hands to rest comfortably in your lap or on the arms of the chair, but when there’s an opportunity, gesture with an open palm and from the heart. 

Bonus tip for powerful communication:

Breath is connected to thought. So, inhale to find “inspiration” and exhale while giving your answer. Try looking at the interviewer while inhaling to “find” your answer, it will keep your answer connected to the person in front of you, enhancing your relationship and keeping you authentic and honest in your message.

There are many other tools and techniques I could teach you, these are just a few. But you can start to see the difference in technique thats specific to your needs. Imagine the difference between wearing an off the rack, one-size-fits-most, clothing item, and a tailored suit. The quality of interview experience you can have, after working with a coach who tailors to your unique communication style, is well worth the effort and the price.