Building confidence from presentation fails

jackiecameronHow do you feel about making a presentation?
If it is one of horror then you are not alone. In US research in November 2013 the number of people who say they have of public speaking anxiety is 73%! At the time of writing I could not find data for the UK but I feel sure that the number would be similar.
Despite this though many people will do what they can to get it done and hope that they won’t need to do it again in a hurry. With this in mind I wanted to share this story.
In the last week of March a group of volunteers put together the awards evening for the Young People who had participated in the Young Enterprise Company programme for 2013/14. Each team – or company- had a final challenge to make a 4 minute presentation about their experiences in the programme. The audience of 300 or so was made up of members of other teams (their competition!), supporters and invited guests. I ran training sessions for them on public speaking during the programme and I created the judging criteria. These young people have established a company and run it themselves dealing with the challenges and issues that any business owner would have along the way. They are far more talented and skilled than they give themselves credit for and I can see no good reason for not encouraging them make a good quality, businesslike presentation to top it off. The one area I stress though is that reading a script will not cut it.
To their credit the vast number of teams rose to that challenge. Each team could have up to 4 speakers on the stage for their 4 minute slot. In the early stages one team were in full flow when one of the guys lost his thread. He paused and was desperately trying to get it back looking at his colleagues to help. They gave him a prompt but the long pause indicated that he might give up. I was whispering “ keep going” to myself. The judges sitting next to me were willing him on. He stumbled through and the team got to the end. Clearly they would not win the prize for the best presentation now.
We had reached the first break of the evening where the first awards for individual directors were being made. The judge for the best HR Director announced the 3rd, 2nd and then winner – and it was the guy who had frozen in his presentation a few minutes before. The judging had been done well before the event. It was sheer coincidence.
What happened next was magical. The entire audience – including the young people who were competing – roared and cheered with approval as he got onto the stage to get his award. The strong message was that they admired him for sticking with it and they also knew that that could have been them. Huge respect all round.
So when I found this post from author Seth Godin about his first disastrous presentation I had to share it with you

“Worst one ever
Forty years ago today was my first bout of speaking in front of an audience. (And as I remember it, I approached it as a fight, not an opportunity.) I was distracted, nervous and not particularly well received.
It was an epic fail. Friends and relatives agreed that I wasn’t engaged or engaging, certainly a performance not to be repeated.
I ignored the part about not repeating it, but I definitely learned some valuable lessons about confidence and engagement.
Just about anything worth doing is worth doing better, which means, of course, that (at least at first) there will be failure. That’s not a problem (in the long run), it’s merely a step along the way.
If you’re not willing to get your ‘worst one ever’ out of the way, how will you possibly do better than that?”
Have you ever had a similar experience? What did you do with the learning?

I really hope that the young man in my story remembers the award before his presentation fail. And I hope he is encouraged by the warmth of his applause to reflect, learn and try again.
After all that’s how we become confident in what we do generally isn’t it?

You can find more from Seth Godin here

Jackie Cameron is a regular contributor to the3rdimagzine.

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