feel confident and engage with your audience Janice Haywood

My most embarrassing presentation moment – Don’t let this happen to you!

My most embarrassing presentation moment

My most embarrassing presentation moment – Don’t let this happen to you!

It was in 2005. I was really interested in the Law of Attraction at the time and felt I knew a lot about it.

And that prompts lesson #1 – just because we know a lot about a subject doesn’t mean we’re able to give a good presentation about it!

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Anyway, I arranged an early evening event and planned to co-present with a friend. We booked a room in the centre of Madrid, sent out lots of invitations and got about 30 people confirmed.

Not bad for a first presentation.

And that’s the thing – it was the very first presentation of my life!

So, in my happy ignorance of the complexities of presenting and public speaking, I prepared the presentation – pulling together a few impressive pictures of the universe and energy etc.  I was ‘ready’. Or so I thought.

On the night, I started well, (I think). But about 5 minutes into the talk it started to go wrong. All of a sudden, it was like my brain didn’t work, or not my rational, thinking brain at least! I can remember looking in dismay at some of the people in the audience; they were fidgeting, looking uncomfortable, avoiding eye contact.

What was happening is that they were feeling empathy for me. Empathy translated into embarrassment.

Because I had become completely blocked! Finally, my co-presenter stepped in and began doing his bit. I’d been rescued!

What do I know now that I didn’t know then?

  • I know that I should have prepared MUCH better. All I did was prepare some images on a slide.
  • I should have also rehearsed; I didn’t.
  • I know now that when you’re in front of an audience your thinking brain functions much less effectively. It’s the emotional brain that kicks in, assessing the situation as a threat, the threat being that people are judging you and judging you negatively.  We need to know this and be prepared for it.
  • I know that it’s vital to stay in the moment, to focus your energy outwards towards the audience rather than focusing it inwards and becoming very self-conscious.
  • And I know that the best strategy when getting blocked is to pause, breathe and with a smile announce to the audience that you’re going to change this into a Q & A session. Because if you really know your topic, answering questions and interacting naturally with the audience takes away the pressure. It allows you to complete your objective – sharing the knowledge that so inspires you and that you hope can help others.

I certainly learned a lesson from my most embarrassing moment. And the thing is, I was presenting in English which is my native language! The possibility of getting anxious and blocked when presenting in a second language is even greater.

Building your self-confidence is so important there is a dedicated module of my Presentation Foundations for Future Leaders course to it. 

I hope my story helps you to better deal with preparing and delivering a presentation.

Do you have any lessons learned in past presentations you would like to share with me?

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My mission is to help employees in multinational companies learn the skills and techniques they need to give outstanding presentations in English and receive the visibility and recognition they deserve.

feel confident and engage with your audience Janice Haywood