Presenting, Pressure, Perfection – where the 3 intersect
I had the pleasure today of participating in an evaluation for my niece. She needed a “model” for her Pedicure class. So, my job was to allow her to give me a pedicure. How sweet is that?! As I sat there being pampered by the sweetest girl in the class, I got to simply be an observer.
The instructor waffled between genuine concern for all the “clients” and urging her students to be perfect. At one point, one poor student got the wrath of it all when she arrived late for class, did not have the proper paperwork printed, set up her tools all wrong, didn’t follow the instruction to the letter. The student was told quite firmly and loudly about every single detail she did wrong.
So I got to thinking…. How can she possibly recover in this moment, and try to create a good experience? I would assert that it’s almost impossible to do well, or to present your best self, when there is a voice that points out every single detail that you are doing wrong. Yes, we may say that this instructor was teaching in the moment, and that if all the other girls did things right, then it’s ok to expect that this student does things right. Besides, how will she learn if she isn’t corrected? This is not meant to create a debate on teaching style (although I do have some opinion about that!). I’m pointing to the voices and the comments that can pepper our thoughts in that very moment when we are trying to show our best self.
In this classroom, the rest of us just happened to hear some of those thoughts. I imagine that this poor girl certainly had other voices in her head fighting for airtime with her instructor. They may have been saying some of these : “see, I knew you were gonna be late, again!”, “how could you let this happen?”, “you’re so stupid! You didn’t even set up the tools correctly!”, “your client and classmates know that you have no idea what you’re doing”, “might as well give up now, they all can see that you don’t know what you’re doing”.
How many of us show up to our moment with these voices? You are about to present to your team, and they start…. “they don’t want to be here. What do you think you can say to inspire them?”, “you’re boring and they don’t want to listen”, “you will probably forget half the stuff you want to say”, “they are going to ask questions you have no idea how to answer”, and so on and so on….
How can you possibly recover? How can you possibly show your best self in this moment? How can your audience possibly get anything good from this?
What does it take for you to quiet the voices? For me, it takes meticulous preparation and knowing why I’m there. I need to know that I have my content ‘nailed’. I know this stuff, I know what I want to say, I know how I want to say it. Also, it helps if I can truly connect myself to the reason I’m there. What do they need? What are they looking to me for? What do they want? Why are we doing this now? When I stand at the front of a room with some solid answers to these questions, I can put my shoulders back, look them in the eye, and deliver my presentation. When that sneaky voice creeps in, I get to tell it to be quiet because I’ve got something important to do here!