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Trainer’s Diary: The Presenter’s Fear


Byron KaliesByron Kalies confronts the manager's fear of giving a presentation.

"Fake it 'till you make it."
Blank looks.
"Pretend you can do something, keep doing it until you wake up one morning and find you really can. Pretend you're really confident about presenting. Visualise someone who does it well. Copy them. Really. Trust me - try it - it works."
They trust me - they try it - it works - for some of them.

Presentations are the most feared part of most managers' lives. I've read that most managers' would prefer the stress caused by moving house than give a 10-minute presentation. To some extent I get it. It can be intimidating to stand up in front of a roomful of people and talk. A lot of the blame must go to 'presentation skills courses'. Yes, it's nice to be able to project your voice to the back of the room. It's great to have exciting slides. It's superb if you can manage the correct eye contact with your audience. Unfortunately, within a few minutes of the start of the presentation most of the audience has taken this for granted. The message is far more important. Get that right - in your own head - and you're winning.

"What's the worse that can happen?" I ask.
The replies tend to fall into two categories, physical and mental. On the physical side there's the projector failing, nothing to write on, nothing to write with, no chairs etc. Go through these one by one and ask yourself "so what?" Think of everything that can go wrong and plan an alternative and if something unexpected happens, well how many things in any other part of your life has gone perfectly? Exactly.

The good thing is that people don't judge us on the mistakes we make but on the speed of recovery from those mistakes. Think of the best customer care you've received? Nine out of ten times people recall a situation that went wrong. It went wrong but the service they received to put it right led them to remember it and recommend the company to their friends years later.

The second category of things that can go wrong is the mental side. Preparation is the key and it should start right from the moment it's decided you're the one for the presentation. It doesn't get easier the longer you ignore it.

It is so much better for everyone to interact from the start. Find out what the audience knows and doesn't know. Find out why they're there. Find out their particular interests. It may well be more nerve racking than hiding behind a script, but it is so much more rewarding. But this can only happen if you've got your head straight first. To do this you need to ask questions and get them to ask you questions.

How presenters deal with questions by the audience is a tremendous indication of where they are in terms of confidence. If the first line in a presentation is "I'll take questions at the end" then the odds are that:
a) they are petrified,
b) they have no idea what they are talking about, or
c) they have hours worth of material and they'll never reach the end.


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