Presentation Paranoia

“It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”
Mark Twain

I confess, I have presentation paranoia.  I know I am in good company.  Along with many others I too am stricken with an unreasonable fear when I have to get up in front of a room full of people. The fear is there no matter who is in the audience. Well, perhaps it is a bit better when I know the audience – oh forget I said that I get a case of the cold sweats whenever I am presenting it’s just a matter of whether or not my Secret will hold out. With this in mind, I am starting to prepare early for a presentation I volunteered to do (yes you got that right, I volunteered) for the Southern California Quality Assurance Association (SCQAA) in October.  It did make it somewhat better that one of my esteemed colleagues presented to the SCQAA in June and the audience loved him. Now I just have to live up to the standard that he has set. Whew, tall order!

What I have found that helps me a lot is to know my subject. My SCQAA topic is on our Agile journey here at Sage. The audience is eager to learn more real life experiences with taking a team from the structured Waterfall methodology of software development to the much touted Agile methods. While the June presentation covered this journey and was well received, I plan to build on that presentation and take a bit of a different approach.  I just need to determine what that approach will entail. I am very fortunate to work with a great group of managers who are willing to share and my colleague has sent me his slides. You can be sure that I will “borrow” from his presentation.

Another presentation technique that has helped me in the past is to get the audience involved. Fortunately I have been attending the SCQAA meetings so I think I have at least a bit of an understanding of my audience. I plan to think ahead and insert some questions into the presentation that will allow me to interact with them and get them to tell some of their own stories and experiences.  I like to pride myself with being able to think on my feet so I will take a cue from their responses and try to tailor my presentation to their interests.

Those are things that have helped me, but there are a  few tips that others gave me which I found to be less than useful. For instance, it just did not work to imagine that my audience wore no clothes. I do have a vivid imagination and this just caused me to blush and titter so I will not be using this again any time soon.  Another tip was to pick someone in the audience and maintain eye contact with them. Establishing this “friend”  to direct my focus only worked if they really were a friend and didn’t grimace, pick their teeth, or fidget as that just makes me more nervous. I have several other “unhelpful” hints, but won’t bother to go over them here.  Let’s just say a lot of things I have tried didn’t work.

My style is not very formal and I think that will work well with this audience. I believe in injecting humor and really enjoy telling stories to illustrate my points. Poking some fun at myself is always a favorite and I am lucky that I have made so many mistakes along the way that it won’t be difficult to come up with a few good stories.

With all of this thought and approach figured out now I just need to brush up on my PowerPoint skills. I do have some on-line training available to me, thank you Sage, but learning from others is what best fits my style.  A while ago I subscribed to slideshare so when I received this feed today it came at the perfect time.  

Make sure you view Tara’s slideshare presentation “How to Rock an Audience.”

It seems like I am all set. I just need to mark my calendar and reserve some time next week to work on this presentation. Let’s see next week is still July and my presentation is in October, that’s hmmm August, September, yes two full months that should be enough time. I intend to take some tips from Tara’s slides and plan to practice my presentation skills a bit on some unsuspecting souls around the office. Wish me luck and feel free to volunteer to review my slides as long as you promise to be kind and constructive with your criticism.


One thought on “Presentation Paranoia

  1. Count me in….I’ll give you some feedback! Pictures, use lots of pictures on your slides to break up the monotony of the words. And keep words to a bare minimum…they should be guidelines, not full sentences. Otherwise, you end up reading them to the folks and they all can read already so what’s the point?

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