I had the privilege a while ago, to coach someone for a Presentation on a topic they were expert in. The topic also happened to be something that I was personally interested in. I admired the presenters and was looking forward to the occasion.
So you can imagine my confusion when, on meeting my heros, I discovered they were desperately trying (not very successfully) to memorise a script they had written for their talk.
To my surprise, they were experiencing anxiety to the point where they were thinking about cancelling.
How could anyone with so much to offer in their area of work be so overwhelmed by having the chance to share their experience?
I felt like saying, ‘Look, just say ‘Hello,’ say something about what you’re doing currently and ask them if they want to ask you any questions. If anyone should be nervous, it’s the audience!’
And that’s what we did. It was a small group, we sat in a circle and after a brief intro, the speaker asked if anyone wanted to ask a question and they did…for over 2 and a half hours!
One of the things I learned from that experience was if you can be brave enough to reach out beyond the speaker role and connect with an audience it very quickly becomes more than just a one way experience…there’s knowledge and information flowing all over the place which is good because audiences can be nervous in a presentations as well speakers because it’s all potentially quite threatening in terms of what we know (and don’t know) because, in a presentation, we’re ALL there to learn together (not only to show what we already know).
This concern we have about the value we bring to a presentation is just human nature and it’s justified because for most people, it’s counter intuitive to get up and identify in an ‘expert’ role for an hour or so. But when there’s a free exchange of information with learning and sharing going on around the room, if you aren’t capable of handling, then your fears are probably justified and you have my sympathy because that’s a tough task for anyone to confront.
If you have something to share (and learn) from your own experience and the experience of others, just say ‘hello’ and get on with it because that’s all your audience want and they feel the same way.