Ever have that gnawing feeling that everyone can see right through you? You are standing in front of a group of people giving a presentation or a talk and you are certain, without a doubt that they see every nervous tic, hear every thought and sense your lack of confidence?
Well they can’t.
More often than not, people in a group are focused on the most important thing to them, themselves.
The only time that they are brought out of their own self-consciousness is when we behave self-consciously in an outward way.
In other words, they don’t know that we are feeling self-doubt until we manifest that self-doubt in an undeniably physical manner.
Like what, you ask?
Have you ever seen a speaker have something technical go wrong with their presentation? (Of course you have, that’s what technology is usually there to do, keep us humble.)
If you have, then you have probably seen someone apologize for the mistake more than was needed. Did they start to talk about how “this has never happened before”? Did they suddenly appear to be physically agitated? Did their movements become jerky and their voice go up an octave or two? Most importantly, did they act as if the problem were a big one or did they just move past it as though it were an annoying bump in the road?
(Lions and tigers and bears…)
You may have heard of the expression, “act as if,” which is a reference to behaving as though you belonged (even if you don’t feel as though you do).
React “as if” is a similar technique in that it asks that we react to hiccups in our presentation or our public speaking as though they were separate from us and not a commentary on our worthiness as experts.
Here are some facts that you can count on when a glitch happens.
1. No one can see what you feel unless you tell them
If you feel self-doubt, don’t trust it. Act as if you didn’t feel that way.
2. When in doubt, stay calm
When our movements become jerky or agitated, our status lowers and we lose our credibility. Be as still as you can, and slow down your movements in general. Everyone will see you taking it in stride.
3. Find a sense of humor
“Best laid plans of mice and men…” is a good thought to have when encountering a problem or a hiccup in your talk. Another way to think of this is an uncomfortable truth: nobody cares. I don’t mean that nobody cares about your presentation, but no one really cares about you being perfect. They just want to learn something helpful/important/interesting or they want to understand what you have to tell them. Everything else is just your ego.
4. Move on. It’s not about you
When a presenter becomes obsessed with fixing a glitch or when they try to ignore the problem (as in microphone issues), they can inadvertently send the message to the audience that this presentation is more about him and not about them. If you can move on, then your audience will ultimately thank you for it. Again, trying to be perfect is a nice goal, but can become all about your ego if you aren’t careful.
If you have faith that people can’t see what you feel, then your actions can help dictate how confident you look and ultimately how easily you move through challenges.