I get nervous when I play football. More precisely, I get nervous for the two or three hours before each game. Sometimes I’m so tired from being nervous, my legs feel like lead. We play seven aside with 3-4 subs so there are, like Ice Hockey, “rolling subs” when people sub on and off indiscriminately. I never play well if we play a quick subs system where people run on, run hard for a few minutes and then get off. I need to read the game, see where I’m needed, see where the holes are and who the danger players for the other side are.
And presenting is like playing football.
When I’m presenting, I can’t follow a script to save my life. I go off on tangents during my segments. I sometimes try to crack a joke. I turn my back on the crowd. I give creepily intense eye contact. I desperately try to avoid eye contact. I talk directly to my colleagues.
I think I’m a pretty good presenter.
But at the start I get extremely nervous. My stomach churns, my hands shake a little bit, I’m sure my brow glistens.
Funnily enough, I always think my presentations are better to more people. I once had to present a company’s annual PR plan to all 150 people employees with my account director. To say I was nervous as more and more people filed in to the room would be an understatement. I though we were presenting to 8 people. Max. It was my best presentation.
My worse presentation performances have been when, as is common with junior PRs, I have one slide to talk to. All my nervous energy gets pent up and focused on one slide. Not good. I need to get a feel for the audience, gauge their reaction to other people and then adjust my pitch. You can’t do that with one slide.
Advice for entry/mid-level PRs
So, my advice for entry/mid level PRs who are given one slide is this:
- Don’t worry about being nervous. Everyone is. You, your boss, your boss’ boss and the people you’re presenting to.
- Focus your nervousness into performance. While you’re waiting for your slide, go through and edit what you want to say. Translate your nervous energy into real energy – energy of movement and energy of voice.
- Slow down. Your adrenaline (the hormone that makes you “nervous”) will speed up your delivery. Slow down.
- Realise you’re just presenting. It’s PR; not ER. Even if you make a dog’s dinner out of it, and I know you won’t, no one’s going to die.
- Realise you’re presenting to a person. A person just like you.
- Don’t say “errrr” or “umm”. If you’re reaching for a word, don’t say anything until it, or an alternative, comes along.
- Express yourself. Break the rules. Go off script. Tell a short joke.
- Focus on the moment and enjoy having highly paid people listening to what you have to say.
- Ask for more. If you can, try to get a couple more slides to let you find your rhythm. It’ll be worth it.
A video clip.
I feel a lot like “Frank the Tank” does after a presentation. The money line is about 55 sec in.
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What are your tips for presenting?