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Essential Speaking Skills
All about the art of public speaking.

Upp Your Stage Presence Part II - Who let the (black) dog out?

So… have you done your homework? Have you think about what your black dog says to you at the critical times of your presentation? What are the top five that comes up all the time? How do you react physically, emotionally and mentally? Here are some of mine.

Black Dog says…
You don’t deserve to win Eric.
They are laughing just to humor you… the truth is, you are boring.
The audience has no time for you. Hurry up and get off the stage.
Awww.. Eric trying to do his thing again. Don’t you remember how you failed the last time?
You will never be good enough.
You are such a disappointment.

And the list goes on…

Sometimes there seems to be two or more black dogs barking at you simultaneously. In my case, “You will never be good enough” always come hand in hand with “You don’t deserve to win.”

So where do these voices (or inner critic) come about? In “Peak Performance Presentations”, the author reasoned that they are the results of a natural evolutoinary process that uses the lessons of the past to inform the present. We remember messages we receive about a certain situation and internalize them as “learning” that “teaches” us how to respond when a similar situation triggers the memory.

Use it well and sometimes it can save your lives. For example, before you cross the road, there will always be this internal voice that says “Wait, look before your cross” or something along that line. This could be what your parents tell you all the time when you were much younger. After a while, we begin to internalize it and when a similar situation arises, it triggers the inner voice.

Therein lies a problem. What if the inner critic outlives its usefulness? Let’s use this one for example: You are such a disappointment!. After consciously vocalizing the inner critic, I traced back to the first time I heard this voice. I was six then. I lied about school grades but unlucky for me, my dad found out. In a fit of anger, he caned me real bad and said these hurtful five words - You are such a disappointment!

Not surprisingly these five words left a huge impact on me. In a way, they reminded me never to lie again. They also motivated me to work hard and made my dad proud (which is not a bad thing actually) Yet years later, this voice never left me. Whenever there is a “dad-lookalike” in the audience, this voice will hit me like it did when I was six. I will start to feel nervous and then guilty, which later surmounted to feeling like a fluke. It ALWAYS gets to me no matter how prepared I am. I will get lost in my own world. Sometimes I will even speed up and get the presentation done and over with… Some people may think I was just nervous but now you know better.

Here’s what I want you to do.

(1) Recall your last few presentations. List down as many inner critics as you can. The more data you collect, the easier to locate source of problem. When you are done, pick the top three.

(2) What triggered the voices? Could it be someone you see in the audience? Or does it happen right when your name is called?

(3) How do you react physically, emotionally and mentally when you hear these voices? Do your palms start sweating? Do you begin to stammer or speed up? Do you get all fidgety? Do your heart start beating faster? Do you forget your lines?

(4) Also start tracing back to the source of this voice? Who do you think said that? Could it your mum, teacher, best friend or even yourself? What happened that cause you to say that?

Remember this: Les flics dans la tete! In French, it means that the cops are in your head! Get them out and take a good look at them.

“Upp Your Stage Presence Part II - Who let the (black) dog out?”