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Are you communicating and presenting like a chimp?

Are you communicating and presenting like a chimp?

Think about the last time you delivered some training, a presentation or a business pitch. It might have been in a small group or it could have been in front of a large exhibition audience. It could have been in a team meeting or it could have even been on a one to one basis. How did you feel before, during and after? Did any nerves creep in? Were you worried about how you were coming across? Perhaps you stumbled over your words.If you’re like an estimated 75% of the world’s population who fear speaking in public, then you probably felt at least some of these things, perhaps even more. Have you ever taken time to consider where those thoughts and feelings come from? What specifically makes you feel like that?

Even though I’ve made a career of being on my feet, delivering training and presentations, enjoying the process most of the time, I can’t deny that I’ve felt like this several times before. This week, I’ve explored this in more detail. I spent two days with a presentation skills coach learning about this stuff as part of a group as well as individually on a one to one basis. What I learned along the way really surprised me. My nerves, feelings, thoughts and worries were coming internally from me and based on absolutely no evidence whatsoever. Just like many, I can be my own worst enemy. This internal dialogue can be crippling at times when it comes to these situations. Despite hearing good things from others about how I come across, there’s this overpowering self-critique that blocks all good thoughts and your mind takes over.

This links very nicely into what I’ve learned from Dr Steve Peters about his theories on the Chimp Paradox. Simply put, based on medical research and evidence, Peters’ theory is that we are not alone in our own heads. There’s not just one of us in our minds, there’s two. According to him, each and every one of us is living with a chimp, the chimp being the emotional side of our brain. Its thoughts and feelings are instinctive and catastrophic. Whilst this may sound like a destructive beast it exists for a reason. It’s the same part of our brain that warns us from threats and dangers and keeps us safe. However, given this animal is far much more powerful than our human side, it can take over, dominate our thoughts, leaving us paralysed and full of fear.

The videos below will help you to understand more about this. If you have time, have a quick watch of them. They’re very interesting.

What I’ll be doing from this point forward, is gluing together what I’ve learned from my presentation skills coach with the things I’ve learned from Dr Steve Peters. It’s clear to me that when it comes to presenting, there’s more I need to do to tame my chimp.

I’d love to hear back from you. What holds you back from being the best you can be when it comes to standing on your feet and communicating? Can you be your own worst enemy or is something else holding you back? What advice do you need? What advice do you have to share?

Wouldn’t it be great if we could stick together as a community and help each other out with this stuff? 

E-mail me when people leave their comments –

Ady Howes - Community Manager, DPG

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  • I read this some while ago and then bought it again for my `kindle as `i kept loaning my paperback out-3 copies in all. it is a revelation. A worthwhile read...

  • It was my driving instructor who introduced me to the Chimp Paradox book.  I have only just started it but I really resonate with this - its ok to have a gut reaction and a natural instinct - its about getting that chimp under control .  Thanks for sharing the video as I hadn't seen it before. 

  • Hi Ady

    Great book, although I haven't finished it yet, it's helped me through challenging times a couple of years ago. 

    See you at WOL?

    • Hi Eva,

      It is a great book. I've read it, listened to the audio book and still can't put it down. Think it's going to be one of life's reference books for me!

      I'm not at World of Learning this year. See you at CIPD ACE though?


      • Definitely a life reference book!

        And yes, see you at CIPD ACE. Look forward to it :-)


  • I am reading this book now and am really enjoying it.  The techniques I am learning have already started to pay dividends as I was much calmer during an interview yesterday.  I asked myself whether I wanted to feel so nervous, the answer was no, so I told Myrtle (my chimp) to get back in her box. Excellent stuff and highly enjoyable as well.

    • That's great to hear you're finding it useful Carol. Make sure you and Myrtle look after each other. I'll bet your pleased to meet each other?

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