In partnership with Toastmasters

Linda Coyle

Toastmasters is a great source of support for nervous speakers

Toastmasters is a great source of support for people who are nervous speakers. There are many Toastmasters clubs throughout Ireland, and I’ve had the privilege of being in touch with members from several of the Cork branches including, Bandon, West Cork, and Cork.

In this post I wanted to share how I’ve worked with people who are current or potential Toastmasters members.

  1. People who feel too overwhelmed to join toastmasters

Chatting to a president of a local Toastmasters group, she has spoken to numerous people who are so terrified of public speaking that they cannot enter the door of a Toastmasters meeting. Despite her gentle encouragement and reassurance that there would be no pressure to speak at a Toastmasters meeting, they just can’t do it. Given a barrier that feels so insurmountable, people can really benefit from working with a therapist who is trained in addressing speech anxiety…and that’s where I come in! Often the hardest part for people who suffer from speech anxiety, is to step out and get help when they are afraid, as it can feel like a ‘silly’ problem, one that you should just be able to ‘get over.’ Also, the longer speech anxiety goes on, the longer you see yourself as a person who lacks confidence at speaking, and so the harder it is to shift. So, at our initial meeting, I always celebrate the achievement of having got here, as that’s a  really big brave step in the right direction!

  1. Highly experienced and confident Toastmasters members who want to improve their vocal technique.

I have worked with clients who have taken part in numerous competitions and progressed up the levels of the Toastmasters programme. Watching their speeches is very impressive! For these people, a common reason that they come to me is to develop a more engaging voice. Perhaps their voice isn’t projecting well, or it lacks the passion that they clearly have for their topic.

Now while it can be reasonably straightforward to work on, or get help with, improving a speech, working on the voice can be more difficult. People can get a range of feedback about their voices.  They may be told that they need to speak more slowly, or speak from the diaphragm, but the reality is that while much of this advice is well intentioned, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to making lasting changes to the voice without specific support. As an example, see how long you can speak slowly simply by telling yourself to speak slowly! Also, the advice may not be accurate, or it may be missing the core issue, for example, someone holding a lot of tension in their body.

So, what I do is have a look and listen to how someone speaks.  I analyse what’s happening, what helps, and what hinders the person having a free, flexible and powerful voice. From there we start to work on practical things that will enable them to have a voice which conveys their message with the energy and passion that they seek!

 

  1. Toastmaster members who are confident at giving a speech, but are nervous about speaking in other situations.

I recall working with someone earlier this year who delivered the most amazing speech, with passion, clarity and charisma. She had used Toastmasters as tool to get her over her fear of public speaking, and boy had she done well! I sat there wondering why she had decided to come to see me! What emerged was fascinating…while she could stand in front of a large group at a Toastmasters meeting and deliver a presentation, she couldn’t sit at a meeting with colleagues and give an opinion, or answering questions about a presentation.. So, my work with her involved exploring the root of her fear of public speaking. We identified that this had stemmed from an embarrassing speaking situation when she had been a teenager at school. While her Toastmasters skills had equipped her with presenting confidently, this traumatic experience still lived in her body, and so it ‘betrayed her when she needed to speak up in other situations, particularly at work.

We explored this experience, and I helped her to connect with those scared and embarrassed feelings in her body, and by doing this, she was able to work with this part of herself, rather than against it. This empowered her to speak from a place of passion, and not be held back by her fears, so now, not only was she delivering amazing Toastmasters speeches, she was having her opinion heard at work, and surfing a wave of confidence!

 

So, these are three ways I have worked in partnership with Toastmasters. If you fall into any one of these three categories, then get in touch to find out how I can help you.

Contact me

 

 

Why our body is so important for successful speaking, Part 2

Linda Coyle

What the body has to do with being an engaging, confident speaker and 3 tips to help you get reacquainted!

An effective voice needs a free and flexible body

In Part 1 of this article I shared a Youtube video on why our body is important for confident, successful speaking. In part 2, I explore the topic further, and share three tips which will enable you to become a more confident and engaging speaker.

1. We speak in our body

…OK this can seem really obvious, but it’s really important to think about this one. We often think about the voice being in our throat area or mouth, but pay less attention to the fact that we use our whole body in order to speak. At most, we may hone in on breathing, having heard that it’s important to take deep breaths for good speaking, but that is often the height of it. And missing the body, means that you’re missing a vital tool for engaging and confident speaking.

In order to speak successfully we need to have a free and flexible body. What does this mean? Well it includes things like having shoulders which are relaxed and not scrunched up, a jaw which is flexible and not tight, legs which support you but are not fixed, a posture which is open and confident, while not rigidly adhering to ‘head up, shoulders back’ which we often perceive as ‘good posture.’

Another key factor is space…not the intergalactic kind! To speak in an engaging and effective manner we want space… space inside our body for our voice to resonate well, space inside our throat, mouth and nose, so that our voice sounds engaging, space inside our head for clarity, as well as a sense of space around us, the area that we want our voice to fill.

 

2.Our body reacts to fear

This is probably the biggest motivator for why we need to connect with our body when we want to come across as a confident speaker. Fear is our body’s reaction to a perceived threat, so we see a lion, we get palpitations, sweat, and get ready to run- fight or flight, or we may freeze, stuck to the spot. Stand in front a podium, and the same physical reactions are not that dissimilar! So, we’re hard wired to keep ourselves safe, and even though to our rational brain, the fear of a speaking situation, be it public speaking, or dealing with a conflict situation, may seem highly irrational, the fact is, that our body doesn’t agree. So, while we may try to either talk ourselves out of this ‘irrational’ thinking, or ignore the nervous feelings, (and/or the stressful event until the last minute!), we are likely to be on a losing battle! Essentially we’re fighting against a wave which is much more powerful that we are.

 

Another thing that happens, is that as we get more stressed we move further into our head, and if these thoughts are left unchecked, we become more disconnected from our body.  This tends to maintain a negative cycle including features such as anxiety, panic, dread, over thinking and self-criticism.

 

So, what to do? Here are three tips to get you more connected to your body in under a few minutes each day. If you practice these regularly, you’ll find that become more body aware, and this in turn will enable you to be a more confident and engaging speaker. So here we go!

 

1. Get more grounded

The simple act of standing up and noticing our connection with the ground is very powerful. While you can do this wearing shoes, it can be particularly useful to do this exercise without shoes on, so that you’re really noticing the contact of your feet with the ground. When we’re stressed we move upwards into our head, so moving downwards, brings us back down to earth…literally! It can be very powerful how settling this is. The very act of choosing to become more grounded means that we stop what we’re doing, and that that is vital if we want to speak with power.

2. Do a body scan

A body scan is simply taking a 10-20 seconds or up to a minute or two, to scan down along your body from the top of your head down to your feet. It’s a chance to stop, become more present in yourself and be a curious observer of your body. I know that for me, when I do a body scan, I often notice tightness in my body which I hadn’t been aware of before. By regularly taking time to scan through your body, then you can get more tuned in to what is happening, and be able to speak from a place of presence. It’s useful to practice body scans when you’re in a relaxed environment, so that you can use them when you’re faced with a scary speaking situation where you desperately want to be confident.

If you’d like help with doing a body scan, then you can access an audio recording on  Day 1 of my Speak with confidence e-course which is currently available for free.

Find out more

 

3. Do mindful movement and stretching.

We can be great at doing lots of exercise but not necessarily be that aware of what we’re doing. Taking time to do simple stretches slowly and mindfully gets us more connected to our body. This could be as simple as scrunching up your shoulders, holding the tension, and then releasing, but being really aware as you are doing it. I particularly like many of the exercises used by Daniela Razocher of Bodies at Work , which can be accessed here.

 

Be curious, don’t judge

With each of these three tips to help you get more connected to your body, the key thing is to be curious about what you notice, and not judge. It’s very easy to take a dislike to feelings within the body, such as pain or tightness, but ironically it’s by getting to know them that they hold less power over you when you stand up to speak. So, be brave, and take a body aware step towards speaking with confidence today!

 

I hope that you found this article useful. Do share any comments you have, and let me know how you got on with the exercises.

Why our body is so important for successful speaking, Part 1

Linda Coyle

We need our body in order to speak. That’s obvious…but it’s worth reflecting on, as it can enable us to come across as confident and engaging when we speak! What exactly does this involve? Watch my video to find out more and to learn how to do a body scan, a quick and easy way to get you more connected to your body.

If you’d like to access an audio file to help you to do a body scan,

then try out Day 1 of my ‘Speak with confidence’ 5 day e-course for FREE.

Find out more

Do you ramble when you’re nervous?

Linda Coyle

Do you talk too much when you’re nervous?

Rambling rose, rambling rose
Why you ramble, no one knows”  

                                 Nat King Cole

 

 

 

 

 

When we’re nervous about speaking, we’re likely to do one of two things, freeze and not say anything, or let the pendulum swing the other way and ramble. We say more, repeat ourselves, repeat ourselves a little differently, or go off on tangents. It’s possible that we may not really have noticed what we said in the first place! We talk faster, barely catching a breath, and may talk at a higher pitch than usual. Does any of this sound familiar?

 

So, why do we ramble when we’re nervous about speaking?

Ultimately this is linked to fear, or nervousness around the speaking situation. Why do we do this? I’ve been mulling over this question, and I think that there are three reasons.

We’re busy in our head: The more nervous we get about a speaking situation, the more we move into our head. Our head is racing, gets busy, and the words tumble around our heads and out of our mouths!

We’re afraid of silence: Silence is so scary! So, if in doubt, fill it!

We distract ourselves: If we keep talking it can distract us from how nervous we’re feeling. It also shields us from feeling judged by the listener. I’ve written more about feeling judged and how it’s interconnected with fear of public speaking, which you can read here.

 

Does it matter if we ramble when we’re nervous?

Well, yes, because, if we’re rambling:

  • We’re not listening
  • We’re not getting our key message out there.
  • We’re not being truly present in the moment.
  • We’re not connecting with our listener

 

What can you do about rambling when you’re nervous?

To me it comes back to two key things, being in our body and being in the moment…but actually, this could be narrowed down to one…being in our body. Because if we’re more aware of our body, we are in the here and now, and are present. When we’re more present, we can sit with our uncomfortable feelings…about silence, about what the listener thinks of us, and not go off into a spiral of panic, and we can be pleasantly surprised by our ability to cope!

So, how to do this? There are many ways. The simplest way that I find, is to simply stop, close my eyes, and scan down through my body, being curious and interested, noticing what I’m experiencing. Other people may find that taking a deep breath is really helpful.  Whichever method you choose, the key result is a quietening of the incessant chatter, busyness and panic in your head, and in that quietness you get clarity….and it’s hard to ramble when it’s quiet.

So, instead of rambling out loud take a moment to ramble through your body, connect with it, and you’ll find that it all feels a lot easier!

 

What are your thoughts?

Do you ramble or do you freeze…or perhaps a bit of both?!

When does this happen to you?

 

If you’re interested in the song ‘Ramblin’ Rose’ here’s a version by Chuck Berry:

 

Other posts about speaking when nervous which may interest you:

Feeling judged and how it’s interconnected with fear of public speaking.

Why our body is so important for successful speaking.

Reflections on ‘being present’ at Women’s Inspire Network Conference #WIN17Dublin, Oct. 10th

Linda Coyle

Speaking at Women’s Inspire National Event Oct. 2017

The #WIN17Dublin event by the Women’s Inspire network was a truly inspiring meeting of positive energy, support and expertise from a wide range of women and men…and I felt very privileged to be part of it! In this post, I’m reflecting on two moments of presence during the day. The first was a body awareness experience that I led during my talk on ‘Public speaking: Feel the fear and say it anyway’. A key focus of my talk was about how important it is to connect with our body in order to speak with confidence. The irony is that we need to tune into sensations within our body which to our judging mind can feel quite unpleasant in order to come across as confident.

So, what did I do? I talked us through a body scan, in which we started at the top of our body and slowly scanned down through our body…just noticing…observing…not judging…What was amazing was as we did this exercise, the energy in the room shifted. It’s hard to describe in words, but it’s like everything ‘dropped’ and there was a sense of stillness, which continued to linger in the air for a couple of seconds after I had finished speaking. While I’ve done this exercise numerous times before, in one to one sessions and with small groups, I’ve never done it on such a grand scale, and the energy shift was palpable. Becoming present in our bodies is great for us in its own right, it is also something that we can apply to day to day situations, particularly situations which we find challenging, such as public speaking, or dealing with a conflict.

Having spoken in the morning, I had the rest of the day to take in a range of amazing speakers, as well as dip into the Chill zone led by Dolores Andrew-Gavin (@irishhealthhour). I particularly enjoyed the chance to experience being in a musical moment during a workshop with Catherine Dunphy (@magicofmusic), as she creatively engaged us in making music….it didn’t matter where on the scale you saw yourself in terms of your musicality, all scales were welcome! You can catch a glimpse of it below!

Finally,  I’m really grateful for all the positive feedback that I got from my presentation, and that people were easily able to apply what they had learned…There were several comments of feeling ‘excited’ or even, ‘really really excited!’ about speaking. What’s all that about? Read more here! Also, thank you to Lisa Kelly (@lisa_myapp_ie)  for including me as one of her favourite 4 from the conference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hate talking on the phone? You’re not alone!

Linda Coyle

Hate talking on the phone? You’re not alone!

Do you find that you’re better face to face than talking to people on the phone? Talking on the phone can be more challenging than face to face for many reasons, and some people can experience a specific phobia regarding speaking on the phone. Three key features which make phone speaking more challenging are:

You can’t see each other: We don’t get to see the other person’s facial expression, so it’s harder to read their reactions. They can’t see our facial expression or gestures, such as nodding, or eye contact.

Speech quality is reduced over the phone: This is because phones do not transmit all the sounds that are part of the human voice, particularly very low frequencies and very high frequencies. This explains why it can be easier to be misheard over the phone, and also why we find it so hard to recognise letters over the phone, and so need to pair them with words, such as using the radio alphabet, e.g. A for alpha.

The buck stops with your voice: The success of how you communicate rests solely on the sound of your voice. This can feel like a huge amount of pressure, and create stress and tension in the body. It can also be particularly challenging in an era when we can find that the mobile is used for anything but making and receiving calls! However, to flip this another way, it’s a wonderful opportunity to maximise your voice as a way to connect with others, as through our voice we can readily show warmth, connection and interest…an emoji would never come close!

If you want to improve at your phone skills, below are some tips to help you to be more successful when you speak on the phone.

 

1) Connect with your body, before you make or answer a call. Put your feet on the floor. Notice how your body is touching the chair, notice your head, notice what your arms are doing. Taking 20 seconds to slowing scan down through your body and just connect with it.

 

2) Wait before you answer or dial a number. Rather than jumping to answer the phone, let it ring a few times, and just breathe. Again, this gets you grounded and more present. The same applies before you call someone. Take a few seconds to just breathe.

 

3) Facial expression: Smile…No the person can’t see you, but smiling, will do a couple of things:

  • Helps you feel happier and more at ease (it’s very effective…try it!)
  • Help you convey warmth, a sense of connection with the other person
  • Helps your speech to be clearer, as you are likely to speak with more energy.

4) Say your name clearly. Do you ever pick up voice mails from people and you can’t get their name from it…even when you listen a few times? Our names are so familiar to us that we don’t think about how we say them, and we don’t do them justice. There’s a great Ted Talk by Laura Sicola called ‘Want to sound like a leader? Start by saying your name right.’ which is well worth watching.

5) (optional) Have a listen to this great song : by Prince, sung by Alicia Keys How come you don’t call me!

 

Do you have any tips to add? Do let me know.

If you feel you need more help at speaking with more confidence, be it on the phone or face to face, then check out my Speak with confidence services.

Find out more

 

 

© [2018] Linda Coyle, Speak Brilliantly. All rights reserved.