5 Blood Curdling Fears and Worst Nightmares of Public Speaking

halloween-speakerAll public speakers must face them.  Hidden in the conference rooms of haunted hotels, they wait for the right moment to pounce and send chills down our spines, usually right before some big, important presentation.  They are the speakers’ blood curdling fears and worst nightmares. Halloween is a perfect time to acknowledge their existence and poke a little fun at them.

1. The Ghost of the Killed Messenger.  You know how the saying goes, “Kill the messenger.”  And who is the messenger? It’s you, the public speaker. No wonder, the mere task of opening your jaw, moving your mouth, straining your vocal cords in order to produce some incoherent sounds that someone may actually hear is a deadly fear of most people. According to findings of the Chapman University Survey on American Fears, public speaking is the top personal fear in 2016, afflicting 25.9% of Americans. Since early days, the prospect of losing your social standing in a group or being kicked out spelled gloom and doom for humans.  The memories of the Ghost of the Killed Messenger took deep roots in the oldest part of our brains, causing doubt and anxiety even in modern-day speakers, whose message may not get them killed, however, it may cause them feel rejected. And that’s like being dead to someone, so it’s a death sentence, however you look at it (or turn away and don’t look). The speech witch told me about a spell that you can use, however, to make the Ghost of the Killed Messenger disappear: “In my message lies the power to connect minds through distance and hour, to shine the light of truth for all, and in that power, I stand tall.”  Let me know if the spell works for you.

2. The Memory Maniac. This one is creepy. He picks unsuspecting speakers’ brains. Just when you thought you memorized your presentation, the Memory Maniac would creep into your brain and steal the memory of your speech, leaving no traces. The more panic-stricken you are, the easier it is for the Memory Maniac to do his memory robbery. Wouldn’t you be afraid to forget what you were going to say?

There are a few tricks you can perform, however, to stop the Memory Maniac. First, don’t memorize your presentation word for word. That just leaves too much information in plain view in the brain for the Memory Maniac to steal. Instead, hide it in the Memory Palace.  This memory trick originates in the ancient Greece.  In his historic overview of the “science of memory,” Carl Malamud tells the story of the poet Simonides of Ceos, who witnessed the destruction of the banquet hall where he sang his poem just minutes before the collapse.   Simonides was able to reconstruct the guest list by visualizing the exact location of every guest at the table.  This visualization technique became known as the “memory palace.”  First, you choose your “memory palace”, which can be any place or route that you remember well.  Next, you place your thoughts or images that you want to remember next to distinctive points in the rooms of your palace or along your route. Those points serve as memory hooks.  When you need to recall the material, you mentally walk through the palace and “collect” the pieces of information that you left at each distinctive point. Since the memory palace you choose only makes sense to you because you know it well, this trick confuses the Memory Maniac, who wouldn’t know what’s important enough to steal.  Another way to escape from the Memory Maniac is to take a nap. Sleep crystallizes all the important details in your memory, and the Memory Maniac can’t carry them away when they are in the crystal form.

3. The Time Thief. This one is sneaky. You successfully used the spell and made the Ghost of the Killed Messenger disappear. You hid all your memories in the memory palace overnight. There is a lot to say. You are half-way through your presentation when you suddenly realize that you have no more time left. The Time Thief used it all up.  Have you ever complained about the speakers who went over their allotted time? How about the speakers who kept it short and to the point? Then, you know how important it is to finish on time. A tell-tale sign that the Time Thief is in the room is that the audience members get anxious, stop listening and start looking at their phones. Some may even rush out of the room.

What do you do to keep the Time Thief away from your conference room? First, bring a magic clock. This clock should tell you when to start, when to take breaks, if needed, and when to finish your presentation.  Ideally, it should also work as scales to measure all your content and tell your exactly how much time your speech would take. Since those magic clock-scales are hard to come by, try to cut your content a little so that you target about 90% of your allotted time.  Don’t overstuff your audience’s brains. They are busy people, not scarecrows. Rehearse the parts of your presentation to know how much each part would take.  Monitor the magic clock as you go to know where you should be in your presentation and adjust accordingly. Sprinkle your presentation with some pixie dust activities that can fill up or reduce time as needed. Look for the pixie dust labeled “Q&A” or “Audience Participation.” By the way, you should never end your presentation by throwing pixie dust around. It gives control over your message to whoever happens to catch most of your pixie dust. Plus, it creates a mess in the room. Always tidy up the ending.

4. The Tech Trolls. Plug it in! Speakers love their slides, mikes, WiFi, cameras, projectors and screens until the Tech Trolls shows up and technology stops working. The tech trolls are just grumpy. There is no reason for them to disrupt a well-planned tech-savvy presentation, but they like to do it anyways. It is very scary and frustrating for speakers and event organizers. The only way to defeat the Tech Trolls is to outrun them in the worst-case scenario race. A Tech Troll says, “I will make your video load super slowly.” You say, “I have thought of that and uploaded the whole video to my flash drive so I wouldn’t have to rely on the Internet connection.”  Another Tech Troll grumbles, “I will cause a blackout.” You respond, “I have thought of that…I’ve got a few aromatic candles here and a story to tell.” You get the idea. Plan for the worst, and your will outsmart the Tech Trolls.

5. The Audience Zombie Apocalypse. This one is tough. How do you present anything to zombies?  The only piece of advice here is you have to know your audience. Take time to learn as much as you can about your audience before your presentation. Ask the event organizers or Siri, search web, connect though social media. Include some content into your presentation that is particularly relevant to your audience that can help you build rapport. And don’t turn into a zombie yourself! Keep it lively!

Happy and safe Halloween!

By | 2016-10-31T18:45:09+00:00 October 31st, 2016|Miscellaneous|0 Comments

Transform your fear of public speaking and test your presentation skills

Do you feel nervous when you have to speak in public?  Does your heart start beating faster? Do you get butterflies in your stomach? Does your throat get dry or palms – sweaty? The trick to overcoming the fear of public speaking is not to fight your anxiety but to transform it into energy that can propel you to perform better. According to research,  you can boost your performance in high-stake  situations when you interpret the signs of anxiety as excitement and focus on things that can energize your even more.  Make your fear facilitating instead of debilitating.  Here are a few things you can focus on to generate excitement:

  • your passion about the topic;
  • the importance of your message;
  • the interests, pains and concerns of your audience;
  • the connection with your audience;
  • the wisdom, care and support you can get from the audience;
  • the quality of your content;
  • the depth of your expertise;
  • your readiness and willingness to share and co-create with your audience.

You get the idea…While the eyes are on you (by the way, you are competing with the phone screens), you are not the most important person in the room. Your audience members are. Your flop is their pain, and your win is their gain.

Play can both relax and focus the brain to help you learn better. Click the image below and play the Thumbs-up / Thumbs-down game developed by our Bookphoria team to test your presentation skills and learn how to improve them.

Presentation Skills Game

Multimedia solutions, such as brief video explainers, games, scenarios, and animations, can make both live and virtual presentations more engaging while briefly shifting the focus from you as a speaker to allow you to regroup and recharge. Want our opinion on what kind of multimedia solution you could create? Need to develop a brain-captivating presentation or signature talk? I’ll mentor you for free.
Click here to set up a free rapid fire mentorship session with me.


The Brain Alchemist has been nominated for the Liebster Award: My answers to 10 questions.

liebster2The Brain Alchemist has been nominated for the Liebster Award by Nancy J. Smyth of Virtual Connections. Nancy is Professor and Dean at the University at Buffalo School of Social Work.  I had the pleasure of sharing some wonderful times and book club discussions with Nancy when we lived in Buffalo, NY. Now, I host my own book club in Stamford, CT, and I am so grateful to be able to keep in touch through the advances in social media. Nancy’s thought-provoking blog Virtual Connections explores the intersection of social work and the digital world.  The Liebster Award carries forward the spirit of connection and discovery, and I am honored to take part in it.

Here are the rules for the Liebster Award. To accept the award:

  • Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog and link back to the blogger who presented this award to you.
  • Answer the 10 questions from the nominator.
  • Nominate 10 blogs and create 10 questions for your nominees.

Now, it is my turn to answer the 10 questions from the nominator.

  1. What are you hoping to achieve with your blog?

The Brain Alchemist is my platform to explore how our brains influence the ways we communicate with the world and with our inner selves.  I am driven by my curiosity and the desire to help people express themselves fully – without fear and with power and passion.  Public speaking, just like blogging, is all about connection with people and ideas.

  1. Where do you get your ideas for blogging?

I often find inspiration for blogging in the current neuroscience research. I am a nerd at heart, ideas stimulate my imagination.  People and their stories are another source of inspiration for me.

  1. What’s the hardest part of blogging for you?

My best writing usually happens when I am trying to fall asleep or when I wake up in the middle of the night. Thoughts just start flowing through my mind. In fact, scientists discovered that we are often more creative when we are tired.  When our brains are less focused, we can tap into a wider range of information and make connections between ideas that may not be available to a narrowly focused mind. My blogging keeps me awake too often for too long!

  1. Which of your blog posts is your favorite, and why?

It is hard to choose one favorite post because they all reflect the evolution of my own thinking, experiences, and preferences. If I have to choose one, it would be Sensation and Perception: 12 examples of how physical experiences influence attitude and judgment.  It is a reminder of how context shapes our thoughts and perceptions. We interact with the world around us in surprising ways. Things can subconsciously seep into our minds and tweak our reactions and behavior. Our physical environment can be a silent decision-maker. Just like a magician can manipulate the scene to make the audience shift its attention to something while a watch disappears from the wrist of an unsuspecting participant, speakers and presenters can use smells, colors, sounds, and textures to influence the moods and minds of the audience.

  1. What is one thing that you think people would surprised to know about you?

I am an introvert who may feel uncomfortable with small talk but loves public speaking. Most people prefer the opposite.  I remember when I was in high school in Moscow, Russia, I participated in various declamation contests and even got a third place at the city of Moscow competition at one point.  That’s how I started my journey into public speaking and later teaching and training. Now, I enjoy coaching others in public speaking, communication  and conflict management skills, and rewiring brains to overcome the fear of public speaking.

  1. What are your favorite ways to unwind?

I like yoga, long walks, books, dancing and cooking.

  1. What are some books you are reading for fun right now?

I am reading “A Creator’s Guide to Transmedia Storytelling” by Andrea Phillips right now. I am fascinated by the developments in transmedia where you pair your content with specific platforms to tell your story across multiple media channels.  Your audience can choose how to engage with the story. They can even become part of the story and influence its development.

“What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite” by David DiSalvo is my current read for The Mind and the Brain book club, which I host monthly.

I also love rereading Russian children’s books from my childhood with my eight-year-old daughter.

  1. What are some of your favorite quotations?

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” ~ Søren Kierkegaard

“When nothing is sure, everything is possible.” ~ Margaret Drabble

“I feel there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” ~ Brené Brown

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” ~ Anaïs Nin

  1. What was a significant milestone for you in 2013?

My business partner, Dr. Marina Kostina of Wired@Heart, and I launched our Bookphoria project where we help authors, speakers and experts make their books and expert content thrive in multimedia.  We are very excited about the response we are receiving to our multimedia solutions and online courses.  People want to engage with information in new, dynamic, multisensory ways through virtual channels that they prefer and where they can find their community or “tribe.”  Our brains are wired to be social, and our learning is social.  We use games, scenarios, animation, digital art to make learning fun.

  1. What question do you wish I had asked you…and why?

“What makes you happy?” I like this question because simply thinking about things that make me happy puts me in a better mood. The list is long: playing with my daughter, spending time with my family and friends (even if it is through Skype, we are all global), travelling, feeling inspired by my work and my clients, taking pictures of flowers and food, swimming in the ocean, sunsets, books, stimulating conversations, good food, coffee, tea and wine, jewelry that tells a story, essential oils … there are so many things to appreciate in life!

The blogs I nominate for the Liebster Award:

  1. The CINERGY® Conflict Management Coaching Blog – ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions)
  2. The Texas Conflict Coach
  3. Wired@Heart
  4. The Hecklist
  5. Human Services Consulting and Training
  6. Collaborative Journeys
  7. Enjoy Mediation
  8. The ROART Group
  9. Conflict Zen Blog
  10. Jason Dykstra

My ten questions for the nominees:

  1. What inspired you to start blogging?
  2. What do you hope to achieve with your blog?
  3. What are three attributes that best describe your blog?
  4. How do you nurture your creative side?
  5. What are you reading right now?
  6. What are your preferred ways of getting the information you need?
  7. What do you like to do to unwind?
  8. What is your most ambitious goal or aspiration for 2014?
  9. What makes you happy?
  10. Anything else you would like to share?

By | 2014-01-28T21:43:09+00:00 January 28th, 2014|Miscellaneous|0 Comments

Introducing Bookphoria, where books and ideas thrive in multimedia learning

bookHappy holidays!

May your heart be filled with love and wonder, your belly with laughter (and yummy food) and your mind with good thoughts!

As we are gearing up for 2014, we are excited to share our animation from Bookphoria and start a conversation with authors, speakers and experts on how they can grow their virtual communities and make their ideas thrive in multimedia. Bookphoria’s mission is to convert books and expert content into dynamic multimedia learning modules that can be used on websites, in presentations, workshops, webinars and other “learnscapes,” including:

  • Author and Speaker Reels and Interviews;
  • Learning animations;
  • “Avatar Quests” and surveys to grow your virtual audience;
  • Gamified learning capsules that can help your audience apply and practice your main ideas.

Play while you learn!

Check out our animation below:

If you are an author, plan to become one or know authors of non-fiction books, we would love to connect with you!

Find Bookphoria on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bookphoria and Twitter at https://twitter.com/bookphoria.

Think outside the book!

By | 2013-12-23T21:15:02+00:00 December 23rd, 2013|Miscellaneous|0 Comments