Success Story: A Manager Who Dreaded Public Speaking and Now Loves It

A manager in a big organization dreaded public speaking. It was the one part of the job she wished she could avoid. She felt completely overwhelmed anytime she had to speak to more than 5 people at a time.

Like many accomplished adults, she had acquired beliefs in childhood that coloured her perceptions about her capabilities. She remembered one situation where she came home from school at 10 years old, and showed off the A+ she got on her essay. Her parents praised her and then admonished her brothers for not getting the same kind of grades. Later that day, her brothers hit her and broke her favorite toy. After that she developed a phobia about sharing her accomplishments with the world.

A big part of her speaking assignments meant sharing the accomplishments of her organization with the world. Whenever it came to that part of the presentation, she started to stammer, and forget what she wanted to say. Her unconscious mind was trying to keep her safe, even though the situation was entirely different. She had tried counselling as an adult, which didn’t make a difference. In those situations, you mostly focus on the problem which strengthens the issue rather than dissolves it.

I gave her a customized MP3 recording called a “Blueprint” which focused her unconscious mind everyday on imagining a scenario where it was safe to do public speaking. The unconscious mind cannot tell the difference between real or imagined situations so these “mental rehearsals” were like simulator trainings. The mental rehearsals eventually over rode the unconscious protection system.

I also gave her a process to improve her self talk. For example, she had a perfectionistic streak. In her mind an accomplishment could only be something like finishing her PhD thesis. As such, the amazing things she pulled off every day went unnoticed. This gave her the overall impression that she was an unaccomplished person — when actually the opposite was true.

Near the end of our coaching series she was invited spontaneously to do a video interview by a well-respected interviewer in her industry. We planned out and role-played the interview many times and videotaped it. She was astounded by how confident she came across. This contributed to her self image transformation.

The day of the interview she was nervous but you couldn’t tell. She told interesting stories and shared valuable, well-thought-through material, that proved her expertise. That video went viral and all of a sudden people were calling her for work. She estimated that one interview totally established her as an expert in her industry. She is now doing public speaking regularly because its something she actually enjoys. She can’t even remember when she used to dislike it so much.



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