The following post was written in response to a question by Tifi (here) who wanted to know how to anchor a state of excitement in an audience. Anchoring is truly one of those magical things that can continue to amaze both the new and experienced NLPer. It is a wonderfully powerful tool for change, influence and transforming lives. Yet many of us forget that anchoring is the process of learning and is happening all the time.
When you learn to master anchoring you have an incredibly powerful tool to use in everyday life.
Powerful Anchoring is not in the Trigger
People when they first learn to anchor make the mistake that it’s all about the technique, the touch or the specific type of anchor being set. But it’s not! The touch on the knee, the unique visual gesture etc is the magic curtain pulled over the eyes of the NLPer. Indeed the keys to anchoring were pulled over my eyes for quite a while.
I used watch video after video of some of the early NLPers masters doing trainings, looking to identify where for example Richard Bandler would anchor the audience and be mystified … two hours in I still couldn’t “find it” those darn anchors! Really great NLP skilled communicators don’t make their anchoring obvious many times.
I don’t know if you’ve ever sat through a presentation with a top speaker, even after learning NLP and not noticed all the anchoring that is going on – all the time. Yet the key to anchoring has been right there in front of all our eyes for a long time - it's just been obscured.
That is why Vik and I have invited a very special trainer to do a post on anchoring later this month (sign up for the newsletter if you want to know when it comes out) and I’m sure what you read will spark your interest as it did mine when I spoke with him about the way anchoring is often mis-taught today.
So to return to the title of this article,
How does one anchor an audience NLP style?
There are three simple rules that if you follow will work consistently every time. Based on the initial question by Tifi, I’m going to assume you want to anchor excitement in your talk.
Rule 1: Focus first on eliciting the state. A strong state always proceed a good anchor.
Silly as this may sound, in order to anchor excitement you first must elicit excitement. Yet presenters make this mistake all the time. If you don't have any state (meaning a strong state of excitement in this case) you shouldn't even think about setting an anchor.
Anchoring is not a mechanical behavior, it is a fluid dance between two or more people with either a overt or covert intention to be able to trigger a specific response at a later time.
So first step is to elicit a pure state of excitement from the audience (remembering that not all of the audience will be feeling it to the same intensity – but you are looking for broad indicators that overall the group is).
A lot of NLPers and presentation folk anchor way, way, way before there is any real state to anchor. You might of learned or seen this form of anchoring where the presenter walks over to one side of the stage and says to him/herself "if I move over here" this is the spot for my “excitement” anchor. Right now walk over there and this is the spot for my “yes set” anchor. Unfortunately through no fault of their own this can look naf and no intentional anchoring is happening at that time.
To avoid this trap make sure you really build up the state of excitement in your audience. Use the best of your storytelling and elicitation skills to do this.
So the take away is: State proceeds anchor.
Rule 2: Get out of your head and be in uptime
Every tried juggling two balls while holding a serious conversation? If you have you know it isn’t long before you end up dropping both balls and forgetting what you were talking about.
In order to be able to know when the moment is right to anchor you need to be outside your head or what we call “in uptime”.
If you are presenting material you don’t know that well, trying to remember to do that, stay on track with your content and elicit a state and anchor all at the same time, chances are you are going to do a poor job. Your focus will be internal also known as being in downtime. Not the place to be when you're presenting to a crowd.
As we know from cognitive psychology the conscious mind can only handle 7 + or - two things. So if you are trying to read the audience, present, work out what's coming next etc you'll find doing your group anchoring skills challenging. Anyone would.
Therefore take the pressure off yourself and practice telling the main outlines of your content many times before hand and plan in an exciting tale that you know off well so you can notice the audiences state and can then anchor without ever needing to walk around the platform.
The Take away is: No Uptime – No Anchor! Stay in uptime and watch your audience for the "right time".
Rule 3: Once you have a strong state elicited Then and Only Then Set the Anchor
As soon as you have externally observed that the state is “cooking”, then do something unique and consistent. You don't need to change your tone to anchor the state, although of course you can and there isn’t anything wrong with that (unless you kill the state!).
One of the secrets to anchoring is to realise that the tone you are using at the moment of the heightened excitement WILL be getting anchored to the state and will act as a trigger for bringing back the state. When you really realise that powerful things are possible.
What's more if you use your voice tone effectively you can amplify the state and create a “sliding tonal anchor” totally outside your audiences conscious mind.
Before I get into the details of actually setting the group anchor I wanted to mention that there are many more ways to anchor that the kinesthetic touch taught in practitioner training. As a new practitioner I remember being frustrated wondering how do you anchor in a business enviroment. I can't exactly touch the client on thigh!
The good news is you can just as easily anchor by smell, taste (use your imagination!), sight and sound. Although to ensure you have anchor redundancy built in you will want to anchor in two or more sensory systems at the same time.
I’m going to assume for now you want to anchor using the visual and auditory systems for the "trigger".
To do so, you need to do three things at the same time.
(1) Continue to elicit/build the state, (2). at the point of strongest observable intensity, do something visually unique (for example twist your hand in a snapping motion as if you were catching a handful of air at the same time as you (3) make a unique sound or phrase at the same time.
Repeat it once or twice to re-inforce depending on the intensity (by the way this doens't need to be stratight away, you can tell another story that elicts the same state and repeat the visual and audtory sound) to condition the new pattern for the brain.
Once you’ve done the three steps above, you should now have a very good anchor for excitement.
Sidebar: Remember the stronger the state and the more unique the trigger the better the anchor. When you are presenting to an audience you need to amplify both the visual and auditory aspects more so than when working one on one where the person can easily see and hear you.
Now before you congratulate yourself (which you should when you do this) you need to test that you have indeed set the anchor. How? Simply fire off the anchor at a later stage when the audience is in a different state and see if you bring back the excitement response.
What do you do if it doesn’t? …. Begin to look uncomfortable .. quickly look for a scapegoat and quickly exit from the crowd!
Seriously, anchoring works you've done it a thousand times already, even if like all of us you weren't aware at times when you did it. If the anchor didn't work simply re-trace the three steps above, identify what was missing and re-do-it. Do it even better this time!
Anchoring is fun and something one can always learn to improve every time. You don't need an audience to practice the skills above. Try it out the next time you are in a social situation, at dinner, at a party .. or work environment.
Identify the state you want to elicit, practice putting yourself into that state at a moments notice, then plan two or three stories you can use that typically elicit this state and go out and have fun practicing. Remember what you practice you get good at!