The Zimmer Method can Help You Hack the Flow State for Public Speaking


by Sandra Zimmer


Public speakers can “hack” the flow state, that is, get into a state of presence if we understand the stages of the flow process and have the courage to use our natural fear and anxiety to catch the flow cycle. Twenty-five years ago, I developed a process that I intuitively knew could help speakers transform stage fright and fear of public speaking and, even more, to help them get into the state of presence while speaking. After much success and a quarter century of hands-on research guiding thousands of people to transform stage fright, I am thrilled that science is finally giving me scientific data to back-up my intuitive process. My main resource for what I am about to share comes from Steven Kotler’s book The Rise of Superman.

The flow state is a state or level of consciousness in which you feel your best and can perform your best. It is an optimal human performance state pursued by athletes, musicians and meditators. For several decades, athletes have been training to enter the flow state, also known as getting into the zone and the ideal performance state. It is the same state that meditators experience as presence and connection to God.

In the state of flow, action and awareness merge. Body and mind merge together, so you experience oneness or a state of unity. You are completely in the present moment.

The reason these states are called “flow” is because of the sensation experienced. When you’re in flow, every action, every decision, leads fluidly, seamlessly to the next. In other words, flow feels flowy.

The Four Stages of the Flow Experience

Recent science has identified the stages that you go through in creating a flow state experience. Scientists have also identified the neurochemicals in the brain during the flow experience. In the flow process, the brain releases five of the most powerful performance enhancing, feel-good neurochemicals the body can produce. They are dopamine, norepinephrine, anandamide, endorphins and serotonin. In each stage of the flow cycle, the brain also emits different rates of electrical brain waves.

The four stages of the flow experience are 1) Struggle Stage, 2) Release Stage, 3) Flow Stage, and 4) Recovery Stage.

  1. Struggle Stage - In the struggle stage, you are in over your head and out of control. The situation is beyond your current capacity to handle. The brain is emitting beta waves and the body is making cortisol and adrenalin. You experience anxiety and stress.
  2. Release Stage - The release stage happens when you take your mind off of the situation. As you detach and let go, you become an observer of the situation. Your brain slows to alpha waves and nitric oxide chases away the stress chemicals.
  3. Flow Stage – The flow stage is expansion of awareness. The brain functions at theta and gamma waves. Theta is the meditation state when you gain new insight and process new data rapidly. Gamma allows the different parts of the brain to combine, so disparate thoughts can create new pattern of awareness. The brain produces the neurochemicals dopamine, anandamide and norepinephrine. Dopamine creates excitement and curiosity to explore. It increases pattern recognition, muscle firing and timing. Norepinephrine speeds up the heart rate, increases attention and narrows the focus on one activity. Endorphins relieve pain and induce pleasure. Anandamide elevates the mood to bliss, inhibits fear and washes away fear from memory.
  4. Recovery Stage – Recovery stage happens in sleep where the experience can be integrated and real learning takes place. The new experience becomes the new normal. The brain slows to delta waves. And serotonin is released to calm the system down. A feeling of bonding and group acceptance occurs.

Conditions that Trigger the Flow State

There are as many as 17 conditions that can trigger the flow cycle to occur. All of them drive attention into the now moment. The three most important flow triggers are a high risk situation, a rich environment and deep embodiment.

High risk means there are potential negative consequences, so you have to focus attention. A rich environment means there is novelty, complexity and unpredictability in the situation. Deep embodiment means there is an intense awareness of physicality, full-body awareness.

Public Speaking Can Trigger the Flow State

Public speaking anxiety offers a perfect situation to trigger the flow cycle and to allow the flow state to occur! This is so exciting! It means that you don't have to get stuck in the tension of performance anxiety. You can learn to use the energy to jump into an amazing experience of speaking from presence.

Think of all that you risk when you speak in a group, meeting or presentation! You might forget what you want to say, make a mistake, lose the respect of listeners or lose standing in the group. You might be so overwhelmed and shaky that you humiliate yourself. Certainly there is great risk in public speaking!

The environment is also very rich. You are the center of attention. Others are all focused on you and what you say. There is no way to predict the outcome.

The sensations created by your body chemistry and electrical brain wave patterns force you into deep embodiment. In public speaking, you can't help but pay attention to all that is happening in your body. That can bring you to full-body awareness and being present in the moment.

The Zimmer Method for Transforming Stage Fright and Fear of Public Speaking

For 25 years, I have been saying that people who have stage fright and fear of public speaking have the potential to be brilliant speakers. That is because they have strong feelings! Their feelings are up to the surface where they can be used to create genuine emotional connection with listeners. If you have the courage to go through the struggle stage of public speaking, feel the tensions and stay focused on the truth at the center of attention, stage fright tension can help you “hack” the flow state and get into the zone for public speaking.

The Zimmer Method is an experiential step by step program to connect you with your natural abilities to express yourself authentically when speaking in groups, meetings and presentations. Without having known the science of the flow state, I knew it all intuitively in 1988 when I started developing the Zimmer Method.

I believe the Zimmer Method guides people through the same process and stages of flow. It offers you the possibility of learning to speak from your heart and let yourself say what you have to say from presence, not performance…. from an inner space of deep connection. To find out more, please visit my website at Let me know if you think I am the one to help you shine when you speak.

Books on the Flow State

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance by Steven Kotler

It's Your Time to Shine: How to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking, Develop Authentic Presence and Speak from Your Heart by Sandra Zimmer

Mental Toughness Training for Sports: Achieving Athletic Excellence by James E. Loehr.
There's also a newer and cheaper version: The New Toughness Training for Sports: Mental Emotional Physical Conditioning from One of the World's Premier Sports Psychologists.

The Power of Now by Eckardt Tolle


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It's Your Time To Shine: How to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking, Develop Authentic Presence and Speak from Your Hear by Sandra Zimmer

It's Your Time To Shine:
How to Overcome Fear of
Public Speaking,
Develop Authentic Presence
and Speak from Your Heart

...the book that has helped thousands transform
stage fright into powerful, authentic presence.

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