Product reviews for Butterflies and Sweaty Palms

Maggie Coulthard

I had the pleasure of doing a short training course run by Judy Apps in 2005, called -˜Beyond Presentation Skills' and was intrigued when I found out she was producing a book covering similar ground.

The starting point of the book is that speaking in public is more than just knowing what to do. It's about dealing with the fear which so many of us experience when we have to be out there to communicate with others. She cites many well known people who continually experience stage fright (Spingsteen, Streisand, Stephen Fry-¦) and reminds us that fear is there to keep us safe, with a quote from M.Scott Peck: “Absence of fear is not courage, but some kind of brain damage”.

She gives ways for us, through visualisation, to generalise our successes rather than our failures, and stresses the need to “be happy with imperfection, then you'll create something excellent.” For great performers, she says, there is no such thing as the perfect performance, as each one is just different.

If we work out what we think success will look, feel and sound like, then we have more chance of achieving that success. She gives different ways of doing this. For example, creating a mental movie with the sound and feel of success (enthusiastic audience questions, lively exchanges of information and ideas), or imagining yourself into the style of a good role model who is successful in what you want to do. So -” put yourself in the shoes of the best communicator you know and learn to do what they do! You could end up applying a comedian's skills to a work presentation context, or those of a highly respected actor in a session with a volunteer group or your local BCT group-¦. Another option would be to transfer your own confidence and ability to engage an audience from one context (as a musical performer or singer or someone who finds it easy to engage friends with a few anecdotes) into a professional or more formal one-¦..

The writer gives strategies for getting in the flow or in -˜the zone' by getting yourself centred or grounded, raising energy levels, and transforming fear or nervousness into excitement (they are very similar already). She takes the reader through ways to engage the power of the breath, a sense of purpose and passion, and of engaging with an audience before starting to speak. Tuning into the mood of an audience and starting with similar energy levels (pacing them) can make a big impact and allow you then to draw them into your subject and the energy level you want to hit.

Judy Apps concludes this book with an exercise of self coaching, in which the reader is asked to imagines a future event or activity, and then go in to experience it as the presenter/communicator. Then after shaking off that experience and persona, moving into the place of the audience to see how the presenter is performing. The next position is that of an observer/coach who can see the interaction and what can be improved. Finally the new perspectives and learning are brought back to the presenter's position to give new ways of performing.

She ends the book by saying the important thing is to entertain yourself, try out different characters, moods and actions, giving yourself choices. The book is somewhere between a toy box and a tool kit, so if you feel like getting together with some BCT friends to experiment with ways to present in new ways, it's a good way to start! If it catches on, then doubtless Judy would be delighted to do more workshops in Brussels in the future.
Guest | 18/05/2012 01:00
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