Expanding Awareness

Public speaking with the Alexander Technique

By Michael Ashcroft | 4 min read
Me in my former life

Let’s talk about one of the most tangible benefits I’ve seen from applying my Alexander Technique skills: dramatically improved public speaking ability.

I used to be absolutely terrified of public speaking or of ‘performing’ in any way. I would get huge stage fright, feel intensely uncomfortable, visibly shake and would avoid it as best I could.

In late 2019 spoke at a conference in Korea in front of 300 senior energy industry professionals from around the world. I didn't have a script, I was horribly jet-lagged and I had dislocated (and then relocated) my left knee the day before. The talk went well and I enjoyed myself — you can read about this, and my ‘ultimate guide to public speaking’ here.

I now really enjoy public speaking. I still get nervous, but it doesn’t control me. I’m able to access an authenticity and playfulness on stage in a way that I never would have thought that I could have. And I attribute a huge amount of that to Alexander Technique.

Before I learned Alexander Technique, I wasn’t in control of my own awareness. It could be pushed and pulled around, dragging me along with it. When there was anxiety, there was only anxiety. When there was stage fright, there was no space for anything else. I tried to control, interfere or otherwise coordinate myself while being defined by these unpleasant things.

Now I am able to expand my awareness far beyond these things. Not to suppress or ignore them, but to place them in the context of a much bigger space. From there I get to choose how much I engage or don’t engage with the fear, how much I respond or don’t respond to the anxiety.

In Korea, in the moments as I went up on stage, I was aware of my exhaustion. I was aware of the intense throbbing in my left knee. I was aware of the enormous room, and of the simultaneous translators at the back. Each of those 'stimuli' — the thoughts, the pain, the fears — had the potential to hijack me.

But I didn't let them. I stayed 'in the room'. I expanded my awareness. I connected with the audience. I lived in that precious space between stimulus and response. The pain and tiredness were there, but they weren't the entirety of my experience. I had choice.

It’s in that space that something magical happens. Something else shows up that is simultaneously not me, but is also much more me than I could ever hope to ‘do’ myself. That’s where the playfulness really comes from.

I really, genuinely can’t fully express how transformational that moment felt, as I looked back on the timid, younger version of myself and where he had come, and knowing that it was no fluke occasion — that I now have the power to bring that capacity to bear every time I ever go on stage again.

Incidentally, everything I’m doing online — Twitter, the newsletters, making a course, making friends — I also attribute a lot of that to Alexander Technique, but that’s a discussion for another time.

By the way! My Fundamentals of Alexander Technique course now includes a 'power-up' module on speaking skills._

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