Nobody could remember the last time a woman had addressed Dubai’s biggest annual printing conference. It would be a novelty, perhaps a curiosity, and it was bringing out bad stress symptoms in Jeyalakshmi. But as a consultant experienced in motivational speaking as well as dealing with stress, I was well-positioned to advise her.
First, I gave her one of my standard philosophies ‘Exploit your limits’. You’re worried that a woman’s voice will sound unusual at this kind of event? Good. That means people are going to sit up and listen. And in her case, she had plenty worth listening to – a big breakthrough in bringing down the cost of non-metallic inks. I reminded her that in business, she was a research chemist first, and a woman second.
This was all very logical, but it did not actually soothe her nerves. So I told her how I had once listened to a panel of women executives giving their own personal solutions to what they called ‘boardroom speaking phobia’.
“Boardroom?” interrupted Jeyalakshmi. “This is a conference hall for two thousand people.”
“It’s the same thing” I explained. “At rock bottom, there is just you and the individual listener.”
And so I took her through the various routines that these women in the same plight had utilised. One of them was highly musical, and could ‘visualise’ herself into her favourite Italian opera, which lifted her into the right mental state to face an audience.
Another one focused on a distant moment when she had been completely happy, and concentrated on this for about an hour until she was enveloped in a spiritual trance, from which she viewed the audience with a huge positivity, almost love. And the audience picked up the vibrations and responded to her the same way.
This was the one Jeyalakshmi tried. She was thinking of a childhood visit to a deep limestone cave, like a huge city carved from drops of water. She said she hadn’t concentrated so sharply on anything for years. It not only calmed her before the conference. It became her standard cure for stress symptoms. And with practice, she managed to achieve it in much less than an hour.
Fight the irrational fear of change – with ‘Change is your Opportunity for Growth’ – just one of the Carole Spiers speeches that have decisively changed opinions.
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