Q: Why do you take such a personal interest in helping people with their fear of public speaking?
A: Back in high school, I used to have a debilitating fear of public speaking — my hands would tremble and my voice would shake. I wanted to rush through every presentation as quickly as possible. Then I decided to do something about it, and since I was interested in hypnosis at the time, I decided to make some hypnosis recordings for myself to overcome the fear. Since then, I have looked forward to public speaking engagements, and today I speak and teach on a regular basis (most recently presenting hypnosis to a group of physicians and other health care professionals). I want to teach other people how to do what I’m doing.
Q: Why do you think that fear of public speaking is such a common issue?
A: I think that the fear of public speaking is so common because everybody has, to some degree, a fear of rejection, criticism and failure. Once you’re in front of an audience, those fears become amplified by the number of people in the audience.
Q: How do you help people overcome their fear of public speaking?
A: Through hypnosis, there are several attitudes I want to instil:
1. As an adult, whenever you’re speaking, you’re the expert in the room. You’re no longer in high school, being graded on everything you say. Instead, you have become the teacher.
2. Everybody is on your side. They’re there to listen — not to judge or criticize. If you start to show nervous symptoms, they’re likely to feel compassion.
3. You can be easily forgiving toward yourself for any mistakes that you make. Listen to almost any speaker who isn’t reading from a teleprompter, and you’ll hear false starts, misspoken words and ums or ahs. As an audience member, you overlook these “mistakes” — and your audience will as well.
4. In a large audience, you’ll always see people who are distracted or grumpy. Ignore these people. Speak only to those audience members who are engaged, interested and even smiling or nodding. These people comprise your true audience.
If necessary, I would also look at past speaking events that the client feels embarrassed or ashamed about, and take those feelings out of those memories through reframing.
Q: Why is hypnotherapy such a useful tool in managing this fear?
A: The fear of public speaking is often based on erroneous beliefs (such as the belief that making a mistake will cause you to be laughed at), and hypnotherapy is about accepting new ideas that might normally be difficult to accept (such as that your audience is, in most situations, compassionate and kind). During hypnosis, it’s easier to accept the kind of ideas that counteract your fears.
Q: How many sessions does it typically take to see results?
A: For the typical client of average suggestibility, the program is around five sessions long. Usually, the client begins to feel better after the first session and continues making progress with each subsequent session. For somebody who is highly suggestible, two or three sessions can be enough to make a significant difference. We encourage clients to seek at least one speaking opportunity between each session, so that the work we do with hypnotherapy is guided by real-world feedback.
Q: Can hypnosis sessions for public speaking improve other areas of a client’s life?
A: Yes. Most people seek help for the fear of public speaking because it’s hindering their career. Good public speakers are seen as leaders and experts, which is necessary for high-ranking positions in business, government or academia.