Overcoming Public Speaking Anxiety – Why I do what I do


overcoming fear of public speaking, overcoming public speaking anxiety, tony burkinshaw

It is no coincidence that much of my work in Harley Street is with clients whose careers have stalled because they suffer with public speaking anxieties. From senior executives to IT consultants, partners in global companies to airline pilots, it seems that speaking up in front of others is a scariness that grips many of us.

I wanted to share with you why I am so passionate about helping people like you stop public speaking anxiety holding back their career.

It held back mine. It doesn’t any longer.

In fact, the very things which used to paralyse me now give me the energy and drive to be here now. Helping clients. People like you. It’s why I developed my 6-step programme utilising what I’ve learned. Working one-to-one with clients, I build a bespoke combination of mind-coaching and therapy for each and every client to move them towards their goals.

One of the interesting things about public speaking anxieties and the feelings of fear and panic that it can bring, is just how insidious it is. We humans will put up with all manner of uncomfortable things and just soldier on regardless. Right up to the point something throws our discomforts under a spotlight that can’t be ignored.

Speaking up in front of others does just that. There’s nothing quite like having to talk in front of your peers or elders & betters, or managers, members of the board, even family and friends at a wedding. Whether it’s speeches or meetings, presentations or workshops, they can all trigger unwanted and debilitating problems which stop you performing at your best.

All the worries and concerns about self-worth or confidence come and stand front and centre, convincing you that everyone in the room can see right through the barriers and walls that you have built up over the years. Feeling completely exposed and at the mercy of people whose opinion really counts.

So we brace ourselves, take a deep breath and do it anyway. Somehow, we keep seeming to get away with it. Its’s a wonder how nobody seems to notice just exactly how scared we feel.

It’s tempting to think it’s just a fear. An isolated phobia. Will-power will prevail. After all, you have to be determined and resourceful to get as far as you have in your career.

What you feel and the way it affects you is very individual. No two clients experience the same feelings or effects. The situations which affect them are different for everyone.

The way you feel will be unique to you. The particular situations which trigger your problems will be specific to you. The underlying causes are yours and your alone. No-one else has lived your life. That’s why it is important to find a solution designed entirely around you.

I thought you might be interested in my story. How it used to be for me.

Why do I do what I do?

I suddenly realised that I was standing in front of 30 senior managers, my mind completely blank, waiting for the fear to take over and tear the presentation apart.
It had taken weeks to set the workshop up. I had been specifically asked to run it because of my background in Financial Services combined with the skills and knowledge I had gained running my therapy practice in Harley Street.
It was the first time this UK wide management team had ever been together in the same room. And they were here solely because of this workshop. To listen to me. And I wasn’t saying anything.
I looked through my notes for help. The missing words in were there somewhere. I could remember highlighting them. Deliberately.
They were nowhere to be seen.
I looked up again. Everyone was looking at me. Everyone.
Any second now, adrenaline was going to flood my body. Cortisol would boost my heart rate, speed up my breathing, dilating the blood vessels in my muscles preparing them for fight or flight. The shakes would follow as those muscles literally trembled in anticipation. Blood would be diverted away from my frontal cortex and into more the more primitive, survival processing centres of my brain. It would become harder and harder to think clearly as automatic reactions took preference to rationality.
I’d been here before. Reaching a point in a workshop where it all comes unstuck, despite the days and weeks of constant over-preparation and obsessing about what I’d say. I’d spend hours thinking through each presentation, making notes, changing slides, mentally rehearsing. Day after day, night after night it would go on, my mind never really switching off.
Every night, without fail, in the run up to a workshop or presentation or speech, I’d lie there semi-awake, my mind dwelling on the tiniest detail of what might happen. I was second guessing every possible question or comment. Every obscure distraction that could possibly turn up was meticulously uncovered by my night-time mind seeking to find all the horrors that lay in wait. Making sure that no matter what transpired, I would be prepared.
I gave up trying to get enough sleep. That was an impossibility in the run up to a speaking event. I just resigned myself to the inevitability that my nights would be my twilight rehearsal rooms. In the end, I just got whatever rest my mind allowed me to have, secure in the knowledge that no matter how tired I was, there would be enough nervous energy to keep me awake on the day. At least the adrenaline was good for something!
I’d wake up and have a coffee. The first of many through the day, counter-acting the effects of my restless sleep. Caffeine would become my ally, keeping me alert. Of course, it was a vicious circle as the very thing that kept me awake during the day would continue doing that exact same job during the night.
Caffeine has a half-life of 4-6 hours so the cumulative effect of several Starbucks Grande’s during the day means that you never really flush it out of your system before you start all over again the next day. Caffeine and anxiety make very poor bedfellows. They like to stay up all night playing disaster movies in your head.

…Meanwhile, back in the room.

I had finished searching through my notes. It hadn’t helped. Looking up one more time, I was still thinking clearly. No shakes. No nerves. Calm and steady breathing.
The panic-response of the past did not arrived. It never does these days. Not since I learned how to resolve old limiting beliefs and harness the strength they used to possess.
Smiling, I grinned back at the room: “It seems I’m human after all! Somewhere in my notes there’s a carefully prepared list of the Cognitive Biases I wanted to share with you. Unfortunately, my mind’s a total blank. I’ve genuinely forgotten what I’m supposed to say!”
I paused. “Not to worry,” I said, “We’ll come back to it later when we discuss how these biases affect your decision making … not to mention your memory”. It was a poor joke but it did get a laugh. It’s surprising how often your audience really is on your side.
And that was that. We moved on with barely a ripple in the continuity. It went on to be a thoroughly enjoyable day and I even got a round of applause at end, some 6 hours later.

Time for a change

These days, I prepare just enough and no more. Once the preparation is done and rehearsed, I put it down, only picking it back up occasionally to refresh my memory as the day approaches.

Perhaps the oddest change has been in my sleeping. In the days before a presentation or speech or workshop, I now just go to bed and, well, sleep. No nightmares, no endless rehearsing, no coming up with ever longer lists of things I need to learn or read or disasters to avoid.

All this was an unexpected side effect of the work I undertook when completely changing my career, studying at Regent’s University to become a Cognitive Hypnotherapist. In discovering how the unconscious mind works, how to engage with it and change it, I found that I had changed myself.

I now discover that more and more people come to me to overcome the very same fears and anxieties that I had faced. As I’ve been there myself, I know from personal experience that deep change is not only possible it can be remarkably quick. Something I had wrestled with for years was over in a matter of a few weeks.

And the effects go way beyond simply speaking up in front of others.

Dealing with the fundamental causes of my public speaking anxieties was an integral part of my transition from local therapist to running a successful practice in Harley Street. The deep-seated issues which made speaking up such a nightmare were the very same issues holding me back in my career.

As one of my clients told me recently: “I find myself doing things that only a couple of months ago I thought were impossible – I can’t wait to find out what’s next!”

Breaking out of the cycle of those fears and anxieties often takes professional help.

I’d like to offer you that help.

If your career is in danger of stalling because public speaking fears and anxieties hold you back, my 6-step programme is for you.

To begin building your very own bespoke programme, get in touch here.

I’m looking forward to speaking to you.

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