Self Reflection Before Projection
When you’re standing on stage addressing a paying audience, you really ought to know your subject matter pretty thoroughly. But what if the focus of your presentation is, in fact, you?
If you answered yes, there’s some groundwork you really need to do first...
The first time I publicly spoke about my accident was absolute shambles.
About three years post injury I was asked to speak at my old high school. Looking back, it was clear I was absolutely not ready to do so.
I did zero preparation. You could argue whether it was laziness or maybe I made an assumption it would be ‘easy’. But if I’m being honest, I was still no where near dealing with my issues and I think it was my way of avoiding the inevitable.
To no one’s surprise, the presentation was a disaster. It rambled, didn’t have much of a point and I’m sure if you asked anyone who was in the audience that day, it was BORING. I was so nervous in the lead up and absolutely wrecked afterwards.
It was a big lesson and wake up call. While obviously disappointed in the outcome, one of my biggest bug bares is that I couldn’t get my message across properly – it was a lost opportunity. It would be years until I spoke about my accident again. That happened seven years ago, but this time it was in a professional sense. This time, the outcome was vastly different.
While I was definitely nervous in the lead up, this time I made a point of putting a lot of effort into my preparation. I spent hours recollecting my experiences and condensing them into short form for easy re-telling. I considered my subject matter – and that of my fellow presenters and the event we were speaking at – to ensure the messaging aligned with the audience’s expectations.
I practiced, and practiced, and practiced. I knew that presentation back to front, in and out, upside down.
But my secret top tip is that I made a concerted effort to talk with a counsellor before and after the event.
You see, I put a lot of myself in my presentations; I use my experiences to qualify and quantify the messages that I’m trying to put across, to make my presentation relatable and connect with my audience. I’ve come to realise it’s a vulnerable thing to do – to expose yourself in front of strangers – and that’s why I’ll regularly check in with my mental health team.
Similar to the way athletes use an abundance of professionals to help with their race day preparations, physiotherapists, massage therapists, dieticians, etc. They do so to perform at their peak. For me to perform at my peak I need to have regular honest check-ins with my team.
I’ve never calculated how many hours it takes to prepare for a single presentation. But I would assume even a guess would surprise you. Preparation is fundamental to a successful presentation – and that preparation goes far beyond compiling a few slides.
If you can prepare for the emotional and mental load that comes with it, you’ll be in a better position to deal with the aftermath.
I’ll be dropping a few more blogs covering public speaking over the next while, so if you’re interested in understanding more make sure you stay tuned!
If you had any specific questions or wanted to suggest a blog topic, feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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