Raise your hand if you enjoy public speaking?! No, me either.
Put me in a group of people and I can hold my own, even lead a conversation and be centre of attention within the group. But make me the only focus and I crumble!
When I was at school if we had presentations, or anything where I had to stand up in front of the class alone and talk, I'd get out of it some how. The one time I did do it I was reading a pretty emosh speech and I started crying half way through!
So when I was informed that I would be flying to another country to give 2 presentations I almost threw up! Not only would I have to do the thing I hate, there were now other fears attached to it, not wanting to fail or let people down, not wanting to look stupid in front of the people I'm talking to, wondering if I know enough about the subject to hold my own – the list goes on.
I did the really helpful thing of leaving everything to the last minute and panicked, I gave myself headaches and stressed beyond belief. Oh and the pressure grew as I was told that I would also be giving the talk the day before I flew, to a group of students – good practice before the big event. So after never having done a proper presentation in my life I was now doing 3 in 2 days, fabulous.
Everyone at work was super encouraging and supportive but this didn't change that awful feeling deep in the pit of my stomach. I fought back tears as my colleague went through the presentation with me the day before and I almost screamed of embarrassment when Jon walked in on me practicing it at home. Safe to say I was a ball of anxiety!
The day arrived and of course started with memory stick issues – perfect! Bad omen or??? The first presentation was for the students and I had to stand behind an alter to do it. I stumbled over my words a couple of times and lost my place but I did it and not only that, I even managed to answer a couple of awkward questions.
This didn't go the whole way to calming me down but it did make me feel heaps better! The presentations I would be giving the next day, although more important, would be given in a more relaxed atmosphere, seated around a table and with people I'd actually met before.
The day of our flight was a busy one, I didn't even have time to think let alone prepare so I did the best I could and spent my evening in the hotel going over everything. And then it was time, there were 2 presentations being given and they asked for the other one first, so I sat there squirming in my seat till it was my turn. Fake confident laura then got up, switched seats, and got to her presentation (after more memory stick drama – do these things ever go without IT glitches?).
It went really well! They were engaged, I answered their questions but most of all I got through it! I came out of there on such a high that I'd actually done it but I couldn't get too ahead of myself because there was still one to go. And this one didn't go as well, my presentation was nowhere to be seen on the
devil memory stick and I didn't have a print out for them, I had no choice but to do the entire thing without my PowerPoint. And guys… I survived! I was actually really impressed with how I handled the situation, remained calm and just cracked on with it (I have no idea where it came from tbh) and I'm kind of glad it happened, because now I know I can cope in a situation where it all goes a bit wrong.
I'm not ashamed to say that I'm proud of myself! Although this might not seem like a big deal for a lot of people, for a terrified girl with occasional imposter syndrome – it's huge!!!
So what have I taken away from this experience?
1. Proper preparation prevents poor performance – this was actually my school motto but it couldn't be more relevant. If you're fully prepared you should be able to deal with most eventualities.
2. Practice makes perfect – if I hadn't practiced my presentation there is no way it would have gone as well as it did. I'm not saying it was perfect but it was to the best of my ability at that time.
3. Don't rely on powerpoint – use your PowerPoint (if you have one) as a visual aid rather than writing the entire presentation on there and make sure you have handouts for everyone in case it doesn't work!
4. Take back up – put your presentation on 3 different memory sticks, email it to yourself and them.
5. Don't be afraid to ask for help – I was so grateful for the hints and tips I received from my colleagues but also from Beth who took the time to message me with encouragement and advice, it really did help.
6. Be yourself – try not to be a robot reading lines, learn the presentation enough that you feel confident reading a lot of it without looking. The more personality you put into it the more enjoyable it'll be for those listening.
7. Find a set up that suits you – this may not always be possible but if you don't react well to standing up in front of a crowd, see if you can get set up around a large table, it'll feel a lot more like a group discussion and the pressure will be taken off of you slightly. People have differing views on how professional this looks but personally I think it's a lot more professional to deal with your presentation confidently around a table than it is to be a quivering wreck standing up.
8. Write a script – while I didn't read my presentation off the page I did have it all written there in case I needed to refer to it, just to make sure I didn't miss anything. Write your script in a way that is easy for you to glance at and know where you are (big spaces between sections.)
9. Eat! – breakfast, lunch, dinner, whatever meal should be before your presentation, make sure you have it. You want to be at your best up there and a lack of energy and a rumbling tummy doesn't scream "I got this".
10. Don't panic – which is very easy to say but as you can tell from what I've written here, not so easy to follow! Be ready for all eventualities but also know that what will be will be and you can only do so much. Try not to worry about what could go wrong and start focussing on what you need to do to make it go right. Have faith in yourself because I bet you'll be surprised at what you can achieve when put in that position!
Whilst this is obviously a post on me facing my fear of public speaking, a lot of these tips can be used to cope with other fears and anxieties! If you have got any to add please leave them in the comments for others to take advantage of! Also comment if you have anything coming up that your nervous to do!
Peace and love xoxo