Fighting “Fight or Flight”

Knotted stomach, sweaty palms, racing heart…

The Primal Threat Response, commonly known as "fight or flight syndrome," was vital for the survival of early humans. But today, it often gets in the way—especially when it comes to public speaking.

"Most speaking engagements don't require you to do anything physical, but your body doesn't know that," says Dale Cyphert, professor of speech communication at the University of Northern Iowa, in a report for the school's professional readiness program. "It perceives the adrenaline signals, assumes some sort of attack is possible, and simply prepares you for the worst."

By learning to expect and control these reactions, you can channel them away from a crippling effect and into an energized and dynamic speech. To control these symptoms, Cyphert recommends:

  • Experience stress as excitement. The adrenaline rush you receive from public speaking is similar to when you ride a roller coaster, but you've learned to associate roller coasters as a "fun" rush and speaking as a "fright" rush. Controlling stage fright won't erase the symptoms, but it will enable them to work for you and not against you.
  • Jump up and down, punch a pillow, or go for a brisk walk before your speech. Your large muscles contract when faced with adrenaline, and until you use them, they won't relax.
  • Breathe deeply and from the diaphragm. This regulates your oxygen/carbon dioxide balance, giving your body a signal to relax.
  • Exaggerate your symptoms—shake your leg or scowl, for example. Then stop. The body is less apt to automatically produce a symptom that you're consciously creating.

By mastering Cyphert's techniques, you can become more at ease with public speaking, drawing your attention away from yourself and to your audience, where it should be.

To fully engage your audience, consider the acronym FIRE UP from communications expert Tom McCarthy, a performance coach and co-creator of the Talking to Win Paraliminal.

F: Focus your audience on you and your message.

  • Before speaking, take a few seconds to look over your audience.
  • Use a warm, sincere greeting.
  • Make a statement that elicits a positive response from your audience.
  • Welcome comments, insights, and questions that directly contribute to the achievement of your goals.

I: Inform your audience of your purpose.

  • Immediately after greeting the audience, state the purpose for your presentation.

R: Remind your audience of their pain.

  • People are most motivated in their desire to avoid pain. When you remind them of what they are trying to move away from, you also position yourself as someone who can rid them of that pain.
  • To do this, consider bringing up a problem, and then confess to having had it yourself, or tell a story about others who have had similar problems.

E: Educate, empower, and entertain your audience.

  • Use stories, games, and examples to engage your audience.
  • Always use a powerful speaking position. Your weight should be shifted slightly forward on your front foot, hands and arms facing forward toward your audience.
  • Get close to your audience. If speaking from a stage, use the entire space.
  • Vary the tone, pace, volume, and tempo of your voice, and include dramatic pauses.
  • Keep your presentation lean. Do not overeducate the audience. Limit content to three major points.
  • Make sure you are enjoying the presentation. When you’re having fun, so will they.

U: Use the audience's unique problem to offer your solution.

  • Show the audience how your solution will rid them of their problem. This readies the audience to make a commitment to your solution and outcome.

P: Propose a commitment and close with a connection.

  • Ask each audience member to make a realistic personal commitment to a next step that will enable him or her to attain the benefits you have offered.
  • Use a closing story or a sincere message to leave the audience feeling that you are committed to them for the long term.

To help you develop the confidence to effectively communicate your ideas, listen to the Talking to Win Paraliminal in the MINDTRX app. It includes two sessions, one to help you eliminate self-defeating behaviors and speak with greater ease, and another to help you become a masterful presenter.

Simply push play, close your eyes, relax, and listen. This closed-eye process activates your "whole mind" with a precise blend of music and words to help you get the most out of every minute.

Learning & Growth, Mental & Emotional Health, Physical Health, Productivity, Relationships

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