The client was comfortable and very effective in normal conversational situations. He became anxious and stilted when he had to give a formal presentation, especially one using Power Point.
I asked him to think of a subject he knew nothing about. Then I gave him two minutes to prepare a two minute presentation to me. I “assured” him that I would be the most bored and difficult audience he could imagine! I would look uninterested, fidget and yawn.
This brief made him laugh and he realised he had nothing to lose and went for it. He gave a very good presentation in spite of the circumstances.
The results and learning
He learned that he was very effective when he used his natural conversational style. He did not need technological props.
In the months afterwards
He found he was enjoying presenting to clients his way, informally and without props. This was easier, the clients liked it as it was more interactive and the results for the organisation were better because of this.
Several years later
He still remembers and draws on the experience. He is senior now and “gets into trouble” because he won’t talk to an audience from a lectern. He wanders about and talks to people. “I just insist on being myself. This works.”
Why did this work so well?
We created enough trust that he was prepared to face his fears head on. The situation was clearly ridiculous and quite light hearted so nothing could actually go wrong. “Doing it” helped him see that his fear was just fear, which is a feeling not a real threat. “Doing it” also meant that he felt his fear and let it discharge harmlessly. When you do this, you spontaneously re-evaluate the experiences that caused the fear. He realised he was good at presentations when he did them his way, and that was good for him, the organisation and his clients. It was a triple win. (Four way as I enjoyed it too!)