Three Strategies for Easing Speaking Anxiety In the Moment

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A bit of visual peace for you.

As I stood there on that stage, the only light was the one shining directly on me. Faces shadowed in the stadium seats of the theatre, silence screamed at me: “Say it! Say the next line!” I was petrified, racking my brain for the lines I had prepared so many times. All I could think was, “Oh, Gohd, make me disappear!” I wanted a trap door to open under my feet. Even a big hook from stage left pulling me offstage would have been better.

Speaking anxiety is a wild and burly beast, isn’t it?

 

I wish I had known these three strategies seventeen years ago on that stage in San Francisco.

They would have helped me recover from that moment. (In case you’re curious, I did recover – just barely. And learned a cool lesson, too. You can see me tell the story here.)

Let’s make sure you have these tools in your toolbox now so that next time you have the opportunity to speak and anxiety starts to interfere with your ability to be truly brilliant in that speaking, you can call on them immediately. Here are those three strategies:

1. Catch It Early:

Possibly the trickiest thing about anxiety is that the very thought of experiencing it can make us anxious. In fact you might even be feeling a tiny bit of it as you read this (if you do, go read point #2 below and implement immediately :) )

Here’s a classic example: You are given the opportunity (or assignment) to speak. Your heart skips a beat and your hands get damp (early anxiety arriving on scene). Without even knowing it, this reaction causes you to tuck away this assignment – to “deal with it later.” It’s in the back of your mind but every time it comes up again, that discomfort arrives with it, and you decide something else more pressing must get handled. (Is this sounding familiar? If it does, don’t feel bad. You are so not alone!) By the time you get to preparing for this speaking event, the anxiety has grown even more – and you are pressed for time to boot!

This also happens in the middle of speaking. It happens while standing at the front of the room or on the stage and seeing the first “sea of faces” – or when you realize you just told that last story wrong (even though they have no idea how the story was supposed to go anyway). These are moments when we can catch the anxiety rising early and head it off before it takes us over. The “catch it early” strategy is only about noticing. It’s recognizing in the moment that we are heading toward (but not yet in the spiral of) anxiety. We feel our heartbeat quicken, notice our attention moving away from our message and the audience and into our own heads. The only thing to do in that moment is to notice, stop and implement point #2 below.

2. Take a Belly Breath:

Immediately upon noticing signs of increasing anxiety in your body, take a breath slowly into your belly. You’re probably thinking that will look strange to your audience – stopping and breathing. Trust me, it will do a far better job of keeping your audience engaged and feeling peaceful than if you don’t do this. Of course, wait to finish your current sentence. But only wait that long. Then take a short pause, a deep belly breath – maybe while walking to the other side of the room or stage – then speak again. The calm and ease this will bring you is so good. If you aren’t familiar with how to take a belly breath (it’s quite different than most of us breath normally), here is a video I created last year that shows you how.

This works beautifully in the moment – and it also works way back when you first learn about your speaking opportunity. Take a few deep belly breaths and get started on the preparation immediately. Nothing will ease your anxiety as well as giving yourself plenty of time to prepare!

3. Stay Over with Them and Out of You:

This strategy leads directly from my own speaking mantra, which is: “This is not about me. This is about them and how I can serve them more powerfully.” Read that aloud, will you? This is the truth. This thing you are about to do – this sharing of your message (whether from the stage, as a contributor in class, or writing an article for publication) – it is about service. You are here to make life better for people with your message. The stage, front of the room or whatever other place through which that message channels – it’s just that, a channel for your service to them.

If you can remember this – that it’s all about them – then your “performance” is so much less burdened. Your need to be perfect doesn’t even make sense. Your perfection doesn’t inspire change in others,  human connection and contribution does. Thoughtful, caring, connected communication does. And that’s what you’ve got in you, ready to share with them.

Because you started early enough, prepared like crazy and now, you are here to serve it all up for them.

These are three of my very favorites anxiety-reducing strategies. What are your favorites? Will you share them so we can all add them to our toolkit.

You are not a marketer

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You are not a marketer.

Unless you are. Which is just fabulous, if it’s what your soul is called to do.

But because you’re here, reading my blog, it is more likely that you are a coach, wellness professional, artist or guide.

Maybe you are a professional organizer or you create retreats and workshops that facilitate meaningful shifts in people. Whatever you do, it’s in service of ease, pleasure, growth and/or well-being in others.

There is nothing wrong with being a marketer.

Marketing is an important job. My own work dances in the realms of marketing. I am a huge fan of marketing. One of the most common ways my clients use their finely crafted message is to put together their own marketing programs and campaigns. They craft speeches that call forth droves of their best clients – a marketing move that trumps all others. We can do a fine job of marketing our services with a beautifully crafted message that calls out to the right people.

But make no mistake – crafting your message and calling forth your best clients doesn’t make you a marketer.

No matter what you hear out there on the streets of the internet. Don’t believe them.

All it means is that you are doing your own marketing – for now. That marketing is one of the things you do.

Think of it like this: I bet most days you cook yourself and possibly your loved ones a meal, right? Does this make you a chef?

Of course not. It makes you a someone who provides nourishment for yourself and your family.

You and I engage in marketing activities because it serves the overall good of spreading our life-changing message and work.

We market our services and products because marketing is the way we let people know we are here to serve them and their greatest desires or help them resolve their overwhelming struggle.

Why am I telling you this?

Because sometimes, when you put yourself out there to attract clients, you won’t get the results from your marketing efforts that you expect and wish for.

If this happens and you think you are a marketer, you might make up that you aren’t good at your work. And that would be very, very wrong.

I’m writing this note to you as a remider that your work is that heart-centered message you have for the world. Your work is changing real-lives and making things better for those you serve. Hone that craft to its greatest brilliance. That message of yours – that’s the work of your soul.

And yes, you still need to get out there big and wide with that invitation to your right clients, letting them know you are ready and willing to make their lives better.

You will engage in trial and error. Some things will work beautifully – and some won’t be so effective. That’s okay – you’re not a marketer anyway. You’re a messenger, a mentor, a guide – and person with lives to change and make better.

And as soon as you are able, find yourself a team of soul-inspired marketing experts to take as much of that part off your plate.

(You and your message will still be your biggest marketing magnet anyway, but you won’t have to manage the systems so much. Whew!)

Because your brilliance shines most brightly when you are dancing in the center of your greatest strengths. Dance there often – and wildly!

And don’t worry, I will still do everything I can to help you get the word out about your beautiful work. You and I just know that whatever results you experience are not a reflection of your great work, right? Good.

Maybe You’re Not Ready

forestpathlightbyamir85Before you click away, I want you to know I’m serious.

This isn’t one of those “go get ‘em” notes, telling you that you’re more ready than you think you are.

I actually want you to consider the possibility that you, in fact, are not ready.

We’ve been sold a potentially dangerous, painful message by the personal and business self-help world.

(Note: I am a fan of self-help. Big fan of high-quality self help, actually.)

The truth is, sometimes we actually aren’t ready.

We haven’t learned the whole lesson. We haven’t really hit the “other side.” We can’t see the forest because we are still walking the path amidst the trees. We may see the light ahead, have a clear view of the meadow that awaits, have a pretty good idea of the path to get out there. But the fact is, we are still in the forest.

I want to recognize here that, yes, we are further along the path than those back behind us. The view of the meadow (outside of all those trees!) is in plain sight. We have much we can share about what we see, especially to those behind us who are way back in the forest. But the fact is, we aren’t out yet and the path is still a bit uncertain.

Theoretically, we could call back to our friends deep in the forest: “I found the way! Let me tell you how to get out!”

And that’s where things get dangerous.

You don’t really know the way. You haven’t done the whole trek yet, have you?

You have what looks like a pretty clear view of the whole way out. And you know a lot about how you got to where you are. The problem is, you think you have to tell them the whole way out in order to get their attention.

And that, right there, is where it all falls apart.

Because you know that you don’t know the whole way out. In your belly, deep within, you know that the turn in the path up ahead could go in a couple of directions. Not having tested it, you’re not sure what happens with either turn. You can guess, but you’re not sure.

That uncertainty makes you nervous. It messes with your confidence.

From this place of lower confidence – of speculation – decisions are harder to make. Your voice wavers a bit when you call back to your friends deep in the forest. Your words lift at the end of your sentence, making them sound like a question as much as a statement. Your gut wrenches.

Your friends are looking to you because they trust that you know the way. You want so much to be of service to them – after all, you are further ahead on the path than they are. They need you. How will they get out of the deep forest if you don’t tell them the way?

And yet, you can’t tell them with confidence what you don’t know deeply within you.

This is where you may have heard things like “fake it ’til you make it” or “act as if” – meaning if you just behave as though you are confident then you will be. Those things work in some places (these are great approaches to practicing for speeches or beginning a new art or hobby, for example), but they do not apply when it comes to mentoring or teaching, both meaningful ways to change real lives with your message and your great work.

Acting as if you know, when deep down you know you aren’t sure, is dangerous for you and them.

You might think I’m writing this to protect them, but I’m not (though I do want safety for everyone). I’m writing this to protect you.

One of my most profound realizations in the last year has been the necessity that we know when we’re not ready.

I’ve watched and felt so many clients, colleagues – and myself (oh, myself!) – break our own hearts over and over as we try to teach lessons we are still learning. We are not intentionally misrepresenting our expertise or wanting to capitalize on a new opportunity to make money. In fact, the intense desire to serve and connect is driving this tricky situation. The problem is that when are still living the lesson and processing the learning, even if we have “realized” important aspects of the new lesson and put a name to the experience, we can’t teach with clarity and confidence. It’s just too close – still too fluid and shifting.

Here’s a new metaphor to consider:

I think of stepping stones on a path through a pond. We stand on one stone, still assessing the next move and finding our balance. Look back – there are those stones we have already traversed. We know how they teeter and where it gets slippery. We can teach about those stones with confidence.

That path of stones behind us, already crossed – this is our place of service, the message we are here to share. For now.

~You can tell them how to get to the place you are.~

In fact, for those way deep in the forest or just stepping onto the first stone in the path, you can share details that those ahead of you on the path may have forgotten about long ago.

The truth is, you have so much to teach. There is a wellspring of brilliance and gifts and learning you have to share that your right people need. The key is to recognize what you’re fully ready to teach – then serve up that message and those lessons with all of your heart and soul.

We think that, in order to serve, we have to have the ultimate answer.

We have to promise our ideal clients the grandest outcomes they can imagine.

This belief tears us up. It kills our confidence and confuses our message.

It weakens our ability to call forth those who need us most – those who are in that part of the forest we can both remember with detail and yet also provide the beautiful way toward the light.

So, my question to you is this:

What can you say to the people walking around this earth right now searching for you and your message with the deepest confidence and certainty? What are you powerfully and fully ready to teach them?

Go do that work. It’s the message you are here to share right now.

These are my giants

auntiechellechocolatechipcookiesbysamiteditedMy childhood best friend, Amy Fisher, made the most amazing chocolate chip cookies. She brought them up to Lake Tahoe (in California) for a group ski trip twenty years ago and we ate them in 11 seconds. They were shockingly good.

So, I stole her recipe, including the secret ingredient that made them taste so unexpectedly delightful. Then I changed a few things – the sugar type and amount, and the amount of vanilla extract. My family calls them Auntie Chelle’s cookies (I’m Auntie Chelle), though I owe every bit of credit to Amy for teaching me how to make those cookies.

Of course, Amy Fisher didn’t make up the basic recipe on which those ski trip delights were built. Goodness, no. Chocolate chip cookies had been around for a long time before that. She just tweaked a few things and made it her own special version of chocolate chip cookies, too.

Ready for this to relate to business messaging?

Jennifer Louden wrote a blog post this past week about stealing other people’s work and claiming it as your own. The article was also about the fact that we all “steal” other people’s work. We use the insights and teaching of others to inform our own. That this is really the nature of “new ideas.” (You see the chocolate chip recipe connection here now?) This “stealing” process is at the heart of the popular Isaac Newton quote, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Jennifer Louden’s post made me think a lot about my own giants – those upon whose shoulders my work and I stand. I’ve got some amazing giants contributing to my work in the world, many of whom have no idea how they have contributed. That is going to change right now. The following people brought work to life that makes up a huge part of my own:

Danielle LaPorte & Carrie McCarthy: I know that Danielle LaPorte is highly influential in many an online entrepreneur’s life right now. For me, her greatest influence begin in July of 2008, when I picked up a copy of the book Style Statement, which she co-authored with Carrie McCarthy. Two months into my business, I came upon that gorgeous book laying on a table at Barnes & Noble. I bought it immediately, took myself through the process of finding my own Style Statement and fell in love, love, love with it. Then, I started offering the book to clients and helping them use it to name their own style. Then I tweaked the process. And I tweaked it some more. I added modified exercises from Grace Bulgar and Nancy Duarte (see below for more on both of these giants). Over five years, this process has evolved into my own Expression Élan process, most beloved by my clients and business community. Let it be known, though, that the Expression Élan’s foundational strength lies powerfully in that Style Statement process I learned from Danielle LaPorte and Carrie McCarthy. (Thank you, Danielle & Carrie!)

Grace Bulgar: Grace Bulgar wrote the first “how to” book I ever read on creating and marketing your business. As far as I can tell, it’s the last one she’s written in that vein as well. The book is filled with exercises for finding clarity within a business team. I took one of those exercises and shifted some of the content to better fit my purposes. It, too, makes up a meaningful part of the Expression Elan process. (Thank you, Grace!)

Nancy Duarte: Oh, the depths of learning I’ve taken in from Nancy Duarte are too expansive to share here. From a direct content perspective, though, I took one question from her book Slide:ology and applied it to my Expression Élan process, making the outcomes significantly more powerful for my clients. That question: What is your verb? (Thank you, Nancy!)

Garr Reynolds: Hands down, Garr Reynolds has taught me the most profound lessons about creating presentation slides that delight my and my clients’ audiences. I use his lessons on image-based slide design from his book Presentation Zen in my corporate trainings, in my clients consulting and in my own speaking. Clients love me about slide design because of what I teach them about Garr Reynolds’ process. (Thank you, Garr!)

Chip & Dan Heath: I use Chip & Dan Heath’s SUCCESs principles from their absolutely awesome book Made to Stick when I teach people how to be more engaging and memorable (sticky!) when they communicate. There is no guide out there that comes close and I’m not into reinventing a sweet-spinning wheel. While I add and expand on the details from my experience, their work is the heart and soul of this piece of my work. (Thank you, Chip & Dan!)

John Medina: I love telling clients about the Pictorial Superiority Effect. C’mon – wouldn’t you? I also love that I get to give them timeframes for switching things up in their speaking – 10 minutes, then do something new – because people love being told exactly what to do when it comes to organizing their speech. Thanks to John Medina and his book, Brain Rules, I have a zillion tools for telling them what we know works when it comes to engaging other people’s brains. (Thank you, John!)

This list only includes the giants that come to mind today who have provided substantive content foundation for my work. My own art and contribution of ideas is directly and substantially supported by the work they have done.

Like Amy Fisher, they brought this amazing recipe that I tweaked to fit my own business community’s needs.

This list does not include other absolutely critical contributors to my work like Stephanie Pollock, Chris Brogan, Seth Godin, Jennifer Louden, Dan Roam, and Sunni Brown – all of whom have taught me in varying ways how to think better, how to do business better, how to push my artistic edges, how to live in integrity and peace and how to keep at it no matter what.

It is a gift to get to add my little bit of brains and art to the brilliance of these giants. I am immensely grateful for the learning curve they saved me so that I can serve those I’m best set up to help.

I wonder – who are your giants?

I’d love to hear. I bet they’d love to hear about it, too. I wonder in what way you can honor the contribution they’ve made to your work? Share your ideas in the comments. We might want to “steal” one of them.

What’s Your Rooftop Message?

Here’s the cold, hard truth:

You can sign up for the premium, fancy-pants email provider (after spending a hundred hours comparing the options), create the most gorgeous website imaginable (after spending hundreds of hours planning, tweaking, and revamping) and implement the highest powered shopping cart available (after spending hundreds of hours figuring out how to put it in place, use it and make it work with your other systems) – but if you don’t have this, nothing will work.

You’ve got to know, with radical clarity, what you want to SAY.

Yes, your Right Clients matter (a ton.)

Yes, your online home must be inviting and inspire action.

Yes, you’ve got to keep providing value to your community so they can learn to trust you and look to you for help.

Yes, you need systems for purchasing your services and products.

Do all of that. But not until you have…

Radical Clarity of your Rooftop Message.rooftopsbyrobotB

This may surprise you, but this is one of the most common barriers to successful business, especially for those of us who are building a business with a powerful message at the core (which everyone should be doing).

Go check in on your own message, real quick, will you?

Imagine you have a rooftop and you are standing on it (safely). You have a large gathering of just the right people below you (more on that in an upcoming post) and they are waiting to hear what you have to say to make their lives better.

What would you say to them? Start like this:

“Listen up! You must hear this! What you absolutely MUST know to make your lives better is…”

Then you finish out that sentence with what you know from your expertise to be true. What you “know for sure”, like Oprah does in every issue of “O” magazine.

That’s your Rooftop Message.

It’s your “Must Say”. It’s the thing you are here to serve with, the way you change lives. It’s why you built your business – because people must resolve this thing in their lives to live the big, beautiful life they deserve.

Your Rooftop Message is not:

  • how they do this thing
  • your reasons for believing it
  • the services you provide
  • how you help

(Those all come later and with lots more detail.)

Your Rooftop Message is a simple statement that declares what you believe will profoundly change the lives of those who need your services.

Here’s mine: Authentic powerful self-expression is the path to successful, satisfying business, personal peace and, ultimately world peace.

Gimme a Rooftop - I’m all over it!

Unlike the hundreds of hours you will (or have) spent on email systems, shopping carts and website design, you probably only really need 20 minutes (maybe five, if you’ve done any work at all on this) to get this really clear. It’s required work for you to make a real impact in others’ lives.

Got your Rooftop Message clear already? Looking to shift it, make it more powerful? Let’s hear it and we can celebrate it together or work on it as you wish. Share in the comments.

Thank you to Robot B on flickr for the rooftop image.

 

[Video] The One Word Theme New Year Planning Tool

Happy New Year! (tomorrow.)

You may know that I choose one word every year as a theme for the year ahead. Last year’s word was Beauty. In many ways, it was a year made more beautiful by my commitment to that theme (amidst some very intense personal growth and, well, struggle.) I plan to write out a review of the year, with the theme of beauty as a thread, in the weeks to come. But for today, we are moving forward! In this video, I reveal my One Word Theme for 2013. I do this in hopes it will serve as an example for another way you might like to think about your own year ahead.

Since it’s a bit long, here are some time markers you can  use to pick sections to watch/listen to, depending on your interests:

  • 28 seconds: Where I acknowledge that the words on my shirt are backward
  • 57 seconds: Why I choose a one word theme & what this has to do with YOU
  • 1 minute, 57 seconds: My One Word Theme for 2013, Revealed – and the elements of it applied to the year to come
  • 2 minutes, 26 seconds: About trust
  • 3 minutes, 14 seconds: The moment of Delight
  • 3 minutes, 45 seconds: Summary of the applied theme
  • 3 minutes, 56 seconds: My favorite Part
  • 4 minutes, 28 seconds: Questions for you – and an invitation to write or call me

Now, here’s the video. I hope it serves you. Please share thoughts, themes, and reflections in the comments or by email with me! I’d so love to hear from you.

Welcome. Thank you for visiting. May I give you a few gifts?

I am so happy you decided to stop by for a virtual cup of tea with me. I created this very short video to make our greeting a bit more personal:

Welcome to Michelle Barry Franco – Your Soul Crafted Message from Michelle Barry Franco on Vimeo.

Here are those free gifts I mentioned:

Turn Anxiety Into Useful Energy (this is a fabulous list of anxiety reducing strategies to use before you get on stage. You can also use them before a networking event, a client meeting or any other time you feel anxiety getting in the way of you bringing your best expression of yourself.)

Making Your Audience Personal (and Your Speech & Writing Way More Impactful!) (this process will guide you deep into the needs and wants of your audience so you can craft a speech, book, article, or website that truly calls their name.)

Storytelling with Impact (use this guide to pull out the important and powerful elements in a story. Stories are magic! Tell them often and well.)

Please take and use these gifts! I created them because they are processes that have worked for my clients to help them hone their message and step more boldly into making the life-changing impact message-driven, soulful people like us want to make in the world. Please let me know how they work for you!

Finally, do no miss out on my new free offer in the upper, right sidebar . It’s purple and called:  “Make Your Message Stand Out Immediately”  <== you can also click that link.)

I have never shared the Expression Elan process in this detail in a free product and I know you are going to LOVE it. It’s a deep process (15 page PDF) but so worth your time. If you’d like to read how much others love having their Expression Elans (these ones were revealed in one-on-one sessions with me), go here. Of course, I’d love for you to sign up for your own full-on Expression Élan process with me there, too!

What’s the Point?

Let me set this up right from the beginning: this post is about my business as an example. Yet, please let me be crystal clear here - it’s about you more. My goal is to be radically clear for you about the ways in which I try to serve you – now, and even more going forward so that you can use me in ways that make your life easier and your business thrive. 

Please note: In a surprise outcome, the process of writing it was really useful for my own business planning. I highly recommend you write a post like this for yourself. It’s a fabulous business planning tool.

Here goes…

In a recent conversation with a new reader to my blog (Hi, new reader! So happy you’re here!), I was gifted a very useful window into what a person might be thinking as they read through my blog content.

Here’s what she said (essentially):

“When I’m reading your blog, I’m often thinking, ‘Where is she taking me with this? And yet, I can’t stop reading. Your style is so unusual. It’s about way more than marketing or speaking. It’s so much deeper than that.”

Here’s what I heard:

“I like reading what you write. It’s engaging. Yet, I get lost on your point at times.”

While my ego loves hearing that my writing is engaging, I am also aware that many people would not stick with reading when they can’t see how the article applies to them and their real wants and needs.

This was incredibly useful information for me. And while it is only one person’s view, I actually see very clearly why she had that comment. I bet she is not alone in that feeling. I haven’t been as clear about why I write what I do on this blog about (essentially) how to communicate your life-changing message authentically and powerfully.

Clarity is critical to my goal of being immensely useful to you.

Since I’m going to launch a new version of my website in the next few weeks, now is the time to be radically clear.

This time, I really want to get the message right for you. I want it to tell you how I can be of service to you, really help you express yourself more powerfully in your own business (and life.) I want it to be obvious from your arrival the ways in which I can help.

Let me declare it right now. I’m  here in service of:

Your Soul Crafted Message. On stage, page and web.

When I write on my blog, create programs and otherwise share my (ahem) wisdom, my great desire is to help you:

  • Name your genuine, distinctive, powerful “flavor” of communication (the ultimate engagement of this is your “Expression Elan)
  • Craft a radically clear, compelling speech that magnetizes clients to you (the ultimate engagement of this is Speaking Coaching)
  • Write your own engaging, effective, authentically powerful web copy for your website
  • Create newsletters and other communication with your community that keeps them excited to be connected with you
  • Actually write that book you have living/brewing in you
  • Write blog posts, print articles and engage in social media in a way that feels awesomely “real” to you and expresses your great expertise

The truth is, doing these things takes way more than writing skill, stage presence, time management, brand articulation, consistency and speech-writing how-to.

You know why?

Because most of these moves require putting ourselves out there in ways that are scary.

The antidote to fear is to consciously bring calm, ease, and self-compassion into our experience. And this explains why I also write a lot about:

  • Inner Peace
  • Speech anxiety
  • Self-compassion
  • Courage/Fear

Further, and finally, as soul-inspired business people, our work and our personal lives are deeply intertwined.

While we may attend to different activities when we are focusing on one or the other, our effectiveness and ease in our business is dramatically impacted by our home and personal life. This is why I sometimes venture beyond our businesses into the home and personal realm. I don’t do this very often but if it feels like it will help you, I will do it.

Because my goal with every single article, program offering and product is to help you get your Soul Crafted Message into the world with ease, confidence and clarity so you can live and enjoy the business you came to build.

Tell me, please.

How else can I help? What do you wish I would write about in service of your message? You can comment here or you can email me at michelle [at] michellebarryfranco.com. Thank you for being here. I am honored to serve you.

 

[This sweet image of Pickle the Puppy peaking through the fence reminds me of how it can feel just before we leap out into full view with our message (or new website, in my case.)]

 

 

 

Peace and Presence

What if Inner Peace isn’t actually a “project”?

It just occurred to me.  Maybe this Inner Peace thing is the opposite of a project. In fact, it’s feeling more and more like a

revelation.

                          An opening.

                                                       A letting go.

As I venture through Project: Inner Peace this summer, I realize that I actually have access to Inner Peace immediately, anytime I need it. It is just there, underneath a noisy, messy layer of thinking and doing. I’m amazed at its consistency and availability.

It only takes one move, one shift in my heart and mind.

One peeling back of a layer.

The process of accessing it feels like a parting of velvet curtains, an opening… into an ease and calm that is as solid as any personal state I have ever known. More solid and certain than any level of anxiety I have ever experienced, even during my three day panic attack.

And the move that brings forth this grounded, centered peacefulness?

Presence. Pure, focused presence.

Try it right now. Right this instant, shift your focus from reading and analyzing this post to simply noticing something beautiful in your environment – the curve of your coffee cup and the colors that mix on its exterior (we can make anything beautiful with presence)… the quivering leaves on the branch that brushes against your window… the sound of that brushing branch in the space of the room in which you sit… Feel the bottoms of your feet on the floor and the place where your shoulders rest onto your back.

Inner Peace. It’s just there waiting.

For me, it’s still fleeting. I lose my focus regularly and quickly, but I’m learning how to bring it back when I need it.

Simple Presence.

 Now you – tell me how you cultivate presence? Do you have ways you stay present, when distractions begin to pull you away?

Grateful photo credit here.

It’s You Who Should Be Naked

You know not to picture your audience in their underwear, right?

No matter how often you hear that silly advice, never believe it. Don’t even try it. If you picture them in their undies, you will experience a myriad of distracting thoughts – some of which may be enticing, Yes – but none of which will serve you and your speaking.

The point is, you don’t need to put your audience in a less powerful position than you (which is the underlying goal of the underwear advice) to thrive on stage.

In fact, if anyone should near nakedness in this exchange, it should be you.

The best speaking has a lot in common with stripping down - yourself:

  • You reveal layers of you and your experience that will surprise your audience
  • You take risks in storytelling and passionate expression that can feel a bit like wearing a bikini in a mall
  • You allow for in-the-moment spontaneity and honesty, a sudden “peep show” into the workings of your heart and mind
  • You “bear it all” in great speaking, giving everything you’ve got in service of your audience

The honesty, openness and vulnerability in truly transformational speaking is risky. If you are pushing the edges of your own brilliance and self-expression, there is a chance (a certainty, really) that someone will disagree with your approach. It is even possible that you will get feedback that your daring, creative, naked speaking made someone uncomfortable.

Good. Discomfort inspires change. It’s where growth breeds.

Life-changing speaking must be revealing. It takes radical courage to be tranformative. You must remove your protective layers.

It’s a kind of naked.

So, keep your audience clothed – and make sure you have a soft cotton robe handy for afterward. You have earned a delicious lounge in a cozy place to rejuvenate – until the next disrobing event needs you and your message.

Photo credit here.