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An NLP Technique to Overcome Presentation Nerves and Stress

Posted on the 19 January 2012 by Combi31 @combi31

Anchoring is a technique used in Neuro Linguistic Programming that is the association of a stimulus and a response to help boost personal effectiveness.We all have experiences of this type of phenomena in our professional and personal lives, but may not always be aware of it, examples include:

  • Smelling something cooking that reminds us of our mothers / grandmothers
  • Touching or feeling something that reminds us of our childhood
  • Tasting something that transports us back in time to our school days
  • Hearing music that takes us back to a place we were when we heard the song

Smelling, tasting, hearing or touching brings about a state of consciousness that bring the memories and emotions flooding back in a  wave, which can almost instantaneously modify our behavior and our humor.The principal is actually knowing how to use these anchors and how to get them back during certain situations where positive emotions can be used to bring about a state of ‘stability’.Anchors can be used in the working environment, almost without realisation, examples include, comfortable seating, good lighting and other such ‘anchors’ to improve the working environment and subsequently the morale of workers.Anchoring, in this way, is frequently used in marketing, where luxury packaging is used for high quality, deluxe products incorporating materials that appeal to both tactile and visual anchors.There are many other examples of anchoring such as the piped music in shops or soft music at a dentist’s surgery, examples are widespread.Basically, an anchor is a sensorial stimulus which triggers an internal process or behavior that can make us relive past experiences which are pleasant (or not).It is a totally natural phenomena and thus can be used and reused as many times or as often as required.Anchoring brings together stimuli in the form of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. However, in order for it to be effective, there are 7 conditions (according to Fevre & Soto) that need to be fulfilled – it must be :

  1. Prepared
  2. Instant
  3. Precise
  4. Tested
  5. Specific
  6. Reproducible
  7. Ecologic

It may seem strange to include the word “ecologic” in the list, which, in the usual sense of the term, signifies the harmony of human beings with their physical and biological environment.In NLP, “ecologic” means the observation of objective conditions of the person and the means they put into place to achieve their goals or objectives – an NLP goal being an anticipated or expected result.To achieve this the objectives need to satisfy two conditions:

  1. Be specific and aligned with the person
  2. Be verifiable, therefore, aligned with reality

Anchoring, put simply, is similar to reliving a past experience as in a dream, in the moment, in order to create positive stimuli.A parallel can be drawn here with Pavlov’s salivating dogs when faced with stimuli in the form of sound or lights. Anchoring can thus be triggered through – sight, sound, smell, touch or taste or a combination of several.One of the practical usages of anchoring is to bring about a state of positive well-being when faced with a negative or stressful situation.Take as an example, speaking in public. Most people find this both stressful and daunting, mainly due to negative anchors or second-guessing situations that have or will be experienced, such as clamming up, forgetting the flow of a presentation, getting tripped-up by unexpected questions or negative audience reactions. Most people get through presentations effectively after having warmed-up, although the pre-presentation stress or the first few minutes may be very difficult to overcome. Of course we all need a certain amount of stress in our lives – when it is managed, we call it “energy”, it is only when it is not managed that it becomes negative.We have all heard the adage, “don’t fear the worst as the worst never happens”. That is all well and good, but actually thinking about the eventuality that the worst could happen does nothing for our capacity to effectively manage stress.In these situations, a positive anchor can help reduce stress to a manageable level and presentations or speaking in public can become an enjoyable event, although this takes practice.Here is a technique, where positive anchors can help reduce stress and heighten effectiveness, prior to and during a presentation, giving you the good start that you need to be able to deliver an effective and (almost) stress-free presentation.

  1. Stand or sit comfortably with a relaxed posture. Concentrate on your body, close your eyes if you need to, and concentrate on your breathing so that it becomes calm, regular and coming from the abdomen, try focusing on moving your belt in and out whilst breathing, in order to take long, breaths from the abdomen, as opposed to short breaths from the top of the chest.
  2. Imagine a time when you felt particularly happy – maybe the birth of a child, passing an exam or winning a competition. Imagine the situation as a film in your head and pay attention to the colours, the light and the shades.
  3. Listen to all that is in the film – background sounds, speech, music etc.
  4. Relive that scene, feeling the original sensations of happiness that you had when it happened.
  5. Now you are experiencing the positive and pleasant emotions, now find a trigger – it could be pushing the nails of your fingers into your palm and at the same time say in your head the word “happiness” – this is the trigger to get back to this state of positivity at a later date.
  6. To test the anchor, think about something completely different for a few moments, then retry your trigger. What happens? If you can get back to the “happiness” state , it works. Most likely you will not be able to get to this state now, the technique takes practice and you must be patient with yourself.
  7. Now think of an upcoming presentation that you are going to give in the future. Create the image of you giving the presentation, but this time, imagine yourself in the audience watching your presentation. At the moment that you usually feel stressed, it could be at the beginning, use your trigger action to get to the “happiness” state. What happens now? Can you see things differently?

If this works for you ( I have never met anyone who cannot get a trigger to work with practice) you have now transferred a “resource state” from one context to another that has effectively transformed limiting behavior – as your former surplus of stress was limiting you in your effectiveness.What you have read here and elsewhere regarding NLP techniques, may seem very strange and akin to selling snake-oil. I have seen people using this technique with their presentations, where it has transformed people from trembling and stuttering speakers to effective, calm and very competent public speakers.It is not a miracle cure, and maybe it wont work for everyone (although I can’t see why it shouldn’t) – it does take a lot of practice to refine. I personally use this tool to help people get control of their nerves when speaking in public, especially during the preparation phase of a presentation, which is often the most crucial phase.

Two of the presuppositions of NLP are that, “If what you are doing isn’t working, try something else” and “You always have a choice” (but only when you want to make that choice).So, if what you are doing at the moment isn’t exactly working, try doing something else – try this tool, wholeheartedly – you have a choice, make that choice!So

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