Now that we’re back to business again after the Festive Season, it’s been interesting to note the number of articles in industry magazines warning of the dangers of the Christmas Party Season in the workplace.

Most related to workers, both management and staff, over-indulging in alcohol or drugs at the workplace Christmas function, on-site or off-site, and the potential disasters that abound.

Association execs, industry experts, CEO’s and managers added their thoughts, weight and concern to the perils of “the work Christmas Party”.

Christopher Niesche made some good points some time ago in an issue of the Australian Institute of Management magazine and he used the term “avoiding the stupid behaviour that can lead to hideous regrets, lawsuits and worse.” And for gender balance, each can be as bad as the other!

We all, that is you, me and everyone else, have our own “default points”. The kind of behaviour we revert to under certain circumstances. That default behaviour is usually triggered by stress, situations that create insecurity, and outside influences like alcohol and drugs.

I used to live in the countryside and had a neighbour some kilometres up the road. I’d known him for many years and he was amongst the quietest, insecure, retiring people you could meet. The type who, basically, couldn’t look you in the eye when you spoke with him and shuffled around when he spoke. That was until he got a skin full of booze. His usual barriers of insecurity were washed away by the alcohol and allowed the true default self to emerge like an angry, teeth-bearing monster. Yep, he was “the angry drunk” and all he wanted to do was fight everyone, anyone, so that he could release his life’s frustrations. That was his “default point”!!  How he developed that default is a whole other story that relates to his upbringing.

For too many people, male and female, managers and staff, booze and drugs unveil the default.

A similar thing occurs for people under duress. Families at weddings and funerals have been known to get into punch-ups. People at airports can suddenly become apparent lunatics when it looks like they might miss a flight or be charged for excess baggage that they hadn’t factored into their budget. (they’ve made tacky TV programs out of these situations) Or the boss or colleague who turns into Godzilla as soon as time/budget/staffing (name your poison) stresses come to bear.

Similar default patterns are accessed when people have to stand up in public and speak. A whopping majority of people would prefer not to make a presentation of any kind, let alone in front of family, friends, colleagues, clients or the Board and managers of a company.

Our defaults, based on a range of triggers including age, education, upbringing, gender and ethnicity, can all kick in when we have to stand up and speak.

I have Coached and Mentored clients who have ranged from nervous types of people who jumped all over the place when doing Public Speaking sessions, to others who have completely shut down, physically, mentally and emotionally.

Another client, in a one-on-one session, was failing to finish sentences and admitted to having the same “not finishing” issues with other parts of his work and home life. Further careful coaxing and discussion had him reveal, for the first time in his life, a history of growing up with abuse. His issues require professional help to fully overcome but, by helping him recognise his default pattern in this situation, we were able to help him become more comfortable with finishing sentences and discussions. It’s helped both at work and home.

For some people uncontrolled giggles are a release point, others start crying immediately. They can generally control things on a daily basis but when you tag on the added pressure of presenting it all becomes too much. It’s the duress default point.

From a public speaking perspective, all of these defaults can be identified, recognised and addressed so that when the next presentation is made it’s engaging, entertaining, informative and, most importantly, comfortable for the presenter and the audience.

Oh, and if you think just a hit of Dutch Courage before you speak is the way to go, think again!

Because your nervous system will probably have your heart rate higher than normal, the booze will zip into your system and make those old default points kick in even quicker than normal. One client suggested she use some kind of herbal calming remedy to ease her nerves before she spoke, until it was pointed out that the base product for many of those sprays and tinctures is pure alcohol.

Better to address the defaults, overcome them and deliver sensational presentations and receive the accolades they and you so rightly deserve.

If you or your team need to develop your public speaking confidence and skills with some coaching and mentoring, or you’d like me to be a keynote speaker at your conference or seminar, feel free to contact me any time.


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