Stop selling! I wish to decide for myself.

An interesting piece by Tim, our resident guest writer taking a look at NLP.

I seem to be tripping over folk in Psychology Today at the moment. I blame Bob, because he’s highlighting articles that are worthy of our attention through his Twitter account. He showed me this piece, How To Deal With Nerves Before A Presentation and I almost like it.

“Will you never stop criticising?” I hear you yell at me!

And the answer is that I will, but in my own time. It’s just like your decision to read this piece. I’m just a smidgen critical this time, though, not angry.


A moment of disclosure. I have not always been the self confident person I show to you. No, that’s not right. I’ve never been that person. I’ve just made you think I am.


It’s an act.

David Burkus, he of the article, he is asking you to act, telling you to act. And that may work for you. Good.

He’s saying very clearly that, before standing on your hind legs to speak to an audience, large or small, give yourself the correct pep talk. He says, wisely, that telling yourself “I am calm” fails, because your entire being recognises the lie, and struggles against it. That makes it worse, probably.

Instead he asks you to recognise that your body and mind is excited. And he suggests you remind yourself that the event that is about to happen is exciting, and that you are going to make it exciting for those in your audience.

I like that a lot. And that may work for you. Good. Very good.

Where I’m having a bit of trouble is when I watch his video, and granted this may simply be transatlantic cultural differences, I find the video presentation of his hugely valid points to be odd. Watch it twice. Watch the first time for the message, the second time for the delivery.

The message doesn’t work for me. If it works for you then it’s spot on. But I think what stops it from working for me is the delivery. That is the reason for the title of this piece. David, should he read this, will probably be perplexed that his highly practiced and very powerful delivery of his genuinely important message has diluted the message, at least for me.

David, if you read this, the reason is because you look like an unduly earnest ‘motivational speaker’. You feel to me as if you’ve attended a lot of Anthony (Tony) Robins talks. They must work, certainly for Robins, because he went from janitor to huge in short order by promotion of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, NLP.

And NLP works. That’s what David’s showing us, though without using the name. But Robins often has a style that says ‘pushy salesman’. Even when relaxed. I think NLP works best when it isn’t pushy. So I wondered what makes me a successful speaker. I guess you have to take my word for it that I am.

In 1979, when I was a baby salesman for a long failed US computer company AM Jacquard Systems, I was being given sales training. And I flunked the presentation element so badly that I dried up and ran out of the room.

That’s not good. It tends to be career limiting if it continues.

My problem was created in me by my teacher, Mrs Bruce, when I was seven years old. Her input into my NLP was “Non singer, you will stand at the back and mouth the words.” She repeated this every time she tested us to see if we could sing without ever once teaching us to sing. She was a woman who should never have been allowed near children, and she told me I was a non singer, a growler, and to mouth the words, and did that at least every year from 1958 to 1965.

My NLP said I was not to make a sound in public forum lest I embarrassed myself and everyone else by making a complete mess of it. I was on a training course in 1979 where I was fighting for my job. I could flunk it, lose my job, lose my house, or I could fight and win.


Imagine how hard it is to break NLP that had been ingrained since 1958?


Sheer bloody minded determination in the form of “I am never, not ever, going to embarrass myself like that again” let me break through. I gave an acceptable but poor presentation and passed the course.

I broke the speaking in front of audiences part of my long embedded NLP by deciding to break it.

I have never managed to break the non singer part, though, despite even taking singing lessons, because, I think, I have no need to sing, though I would like to do it. I have not yet found the message that says to me “You can hold a note” because I have proved often that I cannot. How ironic that my son has perfect pitch.

Speaking, in my sales and marketing roles, to audiences of many sizes, ranging from a couple of people to taking the stage at a crowded Wembley Conference Centre, I developed my own NLP message to myself, and it is simple:

  • They do not know the topic you are about to talk about yet.
  • You are the expert in your field.
  • They are here to listen to you.
  • If anything goes wrong, they are on your side.

I wasn’t calm, nor was I excited. Instead I learned how to become comfortable. I gained the reputation of being able to pick up any presentation at zero notice and to give it with quiet authority.

Gradually, I learned the subtle skills of interacting with my audience, found what worked, what did not, but my internal NLP was always the same. When the slide projector broke or jammed I involved the audience. We laughed together. If anything goes wrong, they are on your side.


The worst was an audience of Japanese businessmen, who sat politely all the way through with zero involvement, zero reaction. That one I had to soldier on through!


Once, in a light grey suit, 2 minutes before having to speak to a room full of our northern sales team I knocked over a cup of coffee, soaking my trouser fly and all down one leg. I had to go on. “I know what you’re all thinking,” I said, pointing down. I never speak from behind a lectern. “You’re not quite that scary. I spilled coffee down myself!” If anything goes wrong, they are on your side. As it got colder it was pretty uncomfortable, but the audience was on my side.

NLP works, but only when you choose to adopt it. I didn’t even know what it was that I was doing, reminding myself that I was the expert, that they were here to listen to me. But it’s also important not to become a cocky expert. Remember, I am not the confident person I project myself as.

Enough already, are you actually any good?

Well, in October 2010 I felt I had a duty to do something right out of my comfort zone. Worldwide many gay and lesbian kids were killing themselves over the stress of the effect their school colleagues had on them, and Dan Savage in the USA started the It Gets Better Project. I felt motivated to do something. So I came out on YouTube as a gay man to tell my story in order to maybe save one kid in pain. It’s amateur, with awful lighting, and the vain Tim thinks he look ghastly, and wonders why the top of his head is cut off.

I’d like you to watch it for style more than for content. Compare and contrast the three video styles. Consider which might suit your audience best.

If you’re wondering, this was take two. There was no-one holding the camera and in take one I managed to cut my head off at the eye line. There is no script. This is unscripted storytelling.

Without breaking Mrs Bruce’s NLP, I could not have done it.

If you’re like me you’re starting to wonder what this piece is about. It’s pretty simple.

None of the three examples will tell you what you need to do in order to start to enjoy speaking to an audience. Only you can. It’s to suggest that you use others to guide you until you are ready to guide yourself. The two blokes doing a piece to camera and the one bloke strutting around the stage, they’re just props in this conversation you need to have with yourself.

Speaking to an audience, while real, is also a metaphor for your life.

No one can sell this to you except you, yourself. You need to consider a guide. I became my own guide, but it has been hard to get it right. A decent guide might be our Bob, with his new Life Coaching offering. I’d have liked a decent guide. Guides help to point out what’s not working, what might work.

Only you can judge.

To find out more about 13-year-old Tim, his older self has published Queer Me! Halfway between Flying and Crying.


About the author

Bob Brotchie is a counsellor, mindset consultant and creator of "Conscious Living by Design"™. He writes for Anglia Counselling, is featured on various other websites and introduces us to many guest writers all covering topics related to mental health and wellbeing.

Bob provides bespoke counselling services to individuals and couples in the privacy and comfort of a truly welcoming environment at his Anglia Counselling company office, located near Newmarket in Suffolk, England. Bob also provides professional online counselling, for local, national, and international clients. The therapeutic models offered are bespoke to the client’s needs, especially those in receipt of 'childhood emotional neglect' (CEN), whilst integrating a mindful approach to psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles. For clients experiencing trauma and/or phobia, Bob offers EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing).