I had to give a short presentation at work today and I didn’t enjoy it one bit.
Like many people, speaking in front of a crowd is not my favourite activity. I’m not terrified and my voice doesn’t shake like it used to, but I felt really flat after today’s effort and I resolved never to speak in public again unless I was absolutely forced to.
I should have good presentation skills as I used to be a teacher. I’m also very good at talking, just ask my family, but there’s something about being out the front in a darkened room that makes feel uncomfortable and exposed. I feel that people are going to discover that I’m a fraud and I don’t really know what I’m talking about.
Who’s in the room?
Your confidence as a presenter can be affected by a range of things. For me, it matters who is in the audience. Today there were some pretty important people in the room (including my boss, and I mean my big boss, not just my immediate manager). This made me feel especially nervous especially as I couldn’t see the people at the back. It was a big room.
I don’t know about you, but I really hate not being able to see the people that I’m talking to. If you can make eye contact and watch their body language, you’re more inclined to make jokes and off the cuff remarks. You can also think on your feet.
Are they with you or against you?
When I spoke at my son’s wedding I really enjoyed the experience. I was really relaxed (I’d had a couple of glasses of wine so that probably helped) but I was also really happy and I knew that the crowd was on my side. Today the environment felt more hostile and less supportive. That’s the reality of work I suppose. Not everyone is on your side. It’s a competitive environment.
Be as prepared as you can
I suspect that the pre-conditions for speaking well are the same as they are for any other type of performance. You need to make sure you are well-prepared, comfortable and moderately relaxed (but not drunk). A few nerves are ok, but not so many that your brain stops working. Try to have an early night the night before you speak and practice your presentation with an actual human being, or failing that, a furry companion as your audience.
If that fails, just do your best and move on
My resolve to never give another presentation again as long as I live didn’t last as I realised almost immediately that I have to deliver a short presentation at tomorrow’s team meeting and another one the day after. It’s part of my job so I can’t avoid it. I’ll just have to do my best and keep in mind that it’s not the end of the world if I’m not brilliant. I’ll save my best performances for weddings and funerals.