Presenting and coping with nerves.

– Posted in: Business, Presentations, Training, Wellbeing

I recently did a presentation that did not go as I had anticipated. As soon as I started to speak, I began to feel slightly nervous. I would describe my experience as suddenly slipping into a poor quality of thought. I think that the actor George Jessel (1898–1981) described my situation very well:

“The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public.”

My presentation was about the structure of presentations so; I was effectively, standing up to tell people how to do presentations. As I started to speak, I had a thought: I would not be able to create any credibility, as a “key person of influence” with regard to presenting, if I delivered a poor presentation.

Having attended several presentations, run by Business Biscotti at their business-networking meeting in Brentwood, I had been confident that my presentation would go well. In the past, the presentations were delivered to a small group of people around a table. However, on this occasion, the event was very well attended and we had to move into a larger room to accommodate my audience.

I had made a conscious decision not to use any notes. In this way, I could demonstrate that having a clearly defined structure could enable a person to deliver a concise presentation without notes.

Needless to say, on several occasions I lost my way and had to collect my thoughts. Also, I experienced time distortion – I thought that time was going slower than it actually was so I left my prepared structure to reiterate what I had said. This caused me to take up more of my audience’s time for no reason – other than my insecure thinking of the moment.

Given that insecure thinking, I have no way of knowing how well I was able to communicate my message. I am just left with a feeling that I did not perform to the best of my abilities.

I have learnt from this experience and will always have notes, in the form of a “mind map”, to hand. In addition, I will do more rehearsing than I did on this occasion. I knew the subject well and will “bang on” about it to anyone who will listen – but an informal conversation is very different to a formal presentation.

I hope that I adhered to the advice of the American operatic soprano, musical theatre actress, and self-help guru, Dorothy Sarnoff (1914–2008).

“Make sure you have finished speaking before your audience has finished listening.”

Please may I ask anyone who attended my presentation to leave some comments below?

5 Comments… add one

Richard Pond July 10, 2012, 10:10 am

Hi Steve, I thought the presentation was excellent as always. Steve worked with me earlier on in the year with my presentations skills on a 1-2-1 basis and we covered mind maps and structure and I agree with the above the more you prepared the better you feel. I would advise seeking professional help if you have any problems talking to large numbers of people and I would certainly recommend Steve for this task.

Martin Engleman July 10, 2012, 11:30 am

Hi Steve, the content of your presentation was, as always, excellent, but you obviously had some memory/concentration lapses.

I experience this myself at intervals when taking instructions from my Will Writing and LPA clients, simply because there are a wide number of topics and legal points to cover, and naturally clients interject with questions and queries, such that I sometimes lose track of my thread immediately before the ‘interruption’.

As you will observe when I make my announcements at EBANG, I have a track to run on, ie a Meeting Agenda, which I must soon write ahead of our next EBANG meeting this coming Monday 16 July.

Nick Looby, who gave an expert presentation on ‘How to do Successful Presentations’ at one of EBANG’s past meetings, carried a set of cue/topic cards held by a chain link, so that cards could be added and subtracted in the chain: so why should us lesser mortals do a presentation without topic prompts ? Brave maybe, but risky, and how does one remember omitted topics to go back to, unless written down ?

Some presenters glance down at their agenda right at the top of their talk, and explain a brief summary of the topics they are going to deliver to their audience. In my book everything points to requiring a written agenda, which can double as a handout to the attendees at the close of the talk, as I will do when presenting on Successful Networking at Business Biscotti Brentwood in August 2012.

Hope my comments are of assistance.

Best Wishes
Martin Engleman

athenatraininguk July 10, 2012, 12:47 pm

Hi Steve, i agree, it wasnt one of your best efforts, fortunately i have heard you speak before and know your capabilities

Robert H Gunn July 10, 2012, 6:57 pm

Hi Steve,

Presenting yourself as a professional speaker and coach and having not heard you speak before, I admit to being surprised by what happened.

It was clear that you lost your way and I felt for you as I have been there myself in the past. When you got to the eighth repetition (yes, I kept count) of the ‘five sections of the introduction’ it was clear you were not going to get back on track. To be honest – it was not good.

The important thing is you have analysed what happened, reached conclusions and have a plan to put into action next time.

I have been with a client this morning who I am coaching on presentation skills. One point I made is that there is no shame in having some notes to refer to and to keep you on track. I gave a 10 minute presentation at the Brentwood Network Group at Ashwells the other week to 25 people.
Because I needed to cover so much ground, the only way to ensure I kept on track and in time was to use notes. It went well, I received a very good response and a number of promising leads have come from the meeting.

You know what went wrong mate. I look forward to hearing the real presentation at a future date.

Best wishes

Robert H Gunn
Burnt Oak Consulting – Business Solutions
149 Danes Way
Pligrims Hatch
Brentwood Essex CM15 9JU

Tel: 07936 286988
Member of the Federation of Small Businesses

trancenlp July 10, 2012, 7:10 pm

Hi Richard, Martin and Michael. Thanks for your comments.

Also, Hi Robert,

I can understand your surprise. I was not properly prepared – although I thought, I was. That is, up until I started to speak.

Because I started to ‘suffer’ from time distortion, I felt that I had only just started even though I was actually running to time. I know repetition is the ‘mother of learning’ but eight times does seem rather excessive! Can you quote those five sections? If you can, then at least I got my message across.

I usually use notes, but considering the environment I expected (a few people around a table), I was confident I could demonstrate that, with a structure, notes are not always necessary. More fool me!

I attended your presentation at Ashwells and was very impressed with the range of people with whom you work and the results you get.

I will be presenting at Ashwells in September so you may get to hear me again. However, I will be better rehearsed – and will probably have notes.
Best regards, Steve

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