“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” ― Jerry Seinfeld
One of my first jobs was as an account manager with an international newspaper distribution company. Six months into the job I was asked to give a presentation to the board about a project I was working on.
I prepared my presentation, read it through a couple of times, checked if the transitions worked on the projector, and on the big day I picked up my laptop and headed to the board meeting.
And that’s pretty much all I remember about that morning…
The rest is filled with memories of sweaty palms, an adrenalin rush, a trembling voice, and a big blank page in my head instead of the first words of my presentation.
That afternoon, I had a word with myself. I realised that presentations were going to be the most visible moments of my career and I decided there and then that I wanted to make the most of those moments rather than dread them. I wanted to use them to make people remember me and my message. To inspire others.
Presentation skills is still one of my favourite courses to teach. It’s a tough and emotional ride for the participants, but it is also very rewarding and the results are instantaneous.
It is also the course that participants fear the most. They often tell me that they just want to get it over with.
The same applies to their presentations. And, I get it. It’s something that doesn’t come naturally to most of us.
Just like me on the morning of my presentation to the board, participants come to the course feeling nervous, dreading the video recording of their presentations, and swearing not to ever watch themselves in action. Then gradually, as they practice and receive personalised professional feedback, they finish the day with an awareness of what skills they need to work on, and more importantly, what skills they already have in their toolkit.
What I’d like you to remember is that presentations aren’t something you can dodge. Everything is a presentation. Your annual review is a presentation. Your weekly team meeting is a presentation. Asking a question in the annual corporate meeting is a presentation. Even bumping into a colleague and having a chat is a form of presentation.
And good presentations require organisation, practice, and assertiveness. Presenting yourself confidently in the workplace, be it in a presentation, in a meeting, or during a discussion with a colleague or client, is an essential part of your career development and your ultimate success.
Undoubtedly, it takes self-confidence to communicate an inspiring and visionary message. Can you learn to be self-confident? Some of my participants argue that it’s some people are born with it and some aren’t.
But I disagree.
Self-confidence is a set of learnable skills and with practice, everyone can become more influential and charismatic.
Fear presentations, or master them – make your choice.