The dread of delivering a presentation dogs many of us. There are few who actually relish the prospect of public speaking. Nevertheless, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be brilliant. We mustn’t mess up, must be the expert, must be impervious to doubt, and meet any challenge with a flawless response. Intellectually we recognise that these are unrealistic aims but we still pressure ourselves to be perfect. This striving for perfection is not helpful for myriad reasons, not least because it puts you at the centre of every situation; and guess what? You’re not.
Whenever you’re delivering a presentation you are the least important person in the room.
It’s not all about you
Why do I say this? Think about it. What are you trying to do? You’re trying to share your ideas as clearly as possible so that your audience can understand your argument and make a decision based on what they hear. This puts their needs far ahead of yours. And in the moment of self-doubt/perfection-reaching, you’re actually only addressing your own needs, not theirs.
The voices in our head say; “Will they think I’m stupid?” “Will I mess it up?” “It doesn’t matter every time before this has gone well, this is the time it will go wrong.” “They’ll finally realise I’m not up to the job.” “I should have prepared more.” “They hate the slide deck” Any of these sound familiar? I’ve worked with everyone from interns at NGOs to CEOs of multinationals and everyone, I mean EVERYONE, has this voice needling away at them. It’s a feature of being human. The only way I know of turning down the volume is to realise that whatever situation you go into, the needs of your audience are bigger than your own.
Once you realise this, it actually liberates you from being brilliant. All you have to do is make sure that whoever you’re talking to comes away with the information they need. Their needs are more important than yours.
So, the next time you find yourself preparing for an audience, remember it’s not about you, it’s about them.