Do you feel uncomfortable giving presentations to others? Maybe you don’t like talking to large groups of people, where the focus point is you, but you have never had to give a major presentation outside of English class in high school. Sometimes opportunities pop up at work or at a club, but you always manage to get out of it. I’d like to talk about my view of giving presentations and recent experiences which have caused me to rethink about them.

I have given various presentations in recent years. The first I recall which wasn’t involved with my education was in fact back at university after graduating. I talked to about 80 students about looking for work after uni. Its a scary time, all change and having to leave friends behind. But it wasn’t nearly as scary as having to give a presentation about it…

To my surprise the presentation went reasonably well. I got a few laughs out of the audience (hopefully not at my own expense) and before I knew it I had reached the end of my presentation slides, I was finished on time, and I had students asking me what kind of salary they could expect in a games job.

I have managed a few more talks since then, usually work related; having to talk about progress of my work to bosses and potential customers. Around every 6 months I find myself in the position where I need to give a presentation. You would expect that each time around lessons have been learned and fears and nerves are less of an issue. I have had feedback and I am told that I dont appear too nervous. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Underneath is still someone who’s fear mounts to critical mass in the minutes and seconds leading up to the starting moments of every speech. My heart is about to jump out of my body and I’m sweating with fear.

Last week I attended my first meeting of Toastmasters. While no one pointed out any serious flaws in the 2 minute speech I gave, the amount of nerves in me building up to my impromptu talk of ‘where i’d like to go in a hot-air balloon’ was intolerable for me, even if no one else noticed.

Later in the pub we were talking about an incredible presentation given that night by another member. Every detail of her speech was energetic and captivating. There was truly no nervousness there. It was then I was let in on a little secret tool, known as self review.

Self review here means recording your own speeches and then giving yourself feedback. The advantage of course is that you don’t need to embarrass yourself in front of other people and you can also do this in your own spare time. You don’t need to wait 2 weeks for a chance to talk at a toastmaster meeting, or 6 months for an opportunity at work so you can practise as often as you like.

After work tonight, I tried my hand at this. I made a 3 minute speech about my website and what my intentions were with it. I took a video using my mobile phone, pointed at the wall, then watched it back using the screen. Nothing too technical, just enough to get a quick view of how I was at giving speeches.

Something that surprised me is quite how cringe-worthy watching yourself giving a presentation can be. I know that listening to my own voice recorded is never a positive experience personally but it is ten times worse actually watching myself at the same time. I know that everyone says they look and sound different to what they think but it still doesn’t help me when I see myself add in umms, ahhs and inappropriate pauses throughout, together with shifting my weight between my feet and gesturing which seemed robotic and inappropriate.

So you might think that doing something like this isn’t exactly helping. Its like putting yourself down, making you concious of all the bad things you do. Well its true that pointing out all these bad points to yourself doesn’t exactly instil confidence but it can help in 2 ways:

The first point is that you should get used to seeing yourself how others see you, not from inside yourself. This will get over the cringing moments when you cannot bear hearing or seeing yourself on a video. Im sure that if I got used to the difference between how I perceive myself to how it actually looks on video, then the pain of seeing that difference wouldnt exist. That in itself would be a confidence boost and it would alleviate the nerves, especially if the presentation is being recorded.

The second point is if you can objectively realise any short comings, that is the first step to solving them. I knew that its a bad idea to let verbal ticks (umm, ahh, you know.. etc) from getting into a speech, so it was surprising to see me doing it so much. Even though I didnt think I was doing it whilst talking at the time. Also, there were some long pauses between my ideas while I was recollecting my thoughts. I became nervous during that time because it felt so long. Strangely though, when watching the video back, these pauses weren’t as long as I had first thought. Had I known that they weren’t as long as I thought at the time, I wouldn’t have been so nervous and I would have been able to concentrate much more, saving time.

I am glad to have tried this video review and I will continue this on a daily basis. My pattern at the moment is to come home from work, record a 2 minute video in the spare room. I set my phone on a table top pointing to the wall and press record. I go over to the place where it points then take a breath. Then I begin. I’ve talked about various things, my thoughts on giving speeches, what i’m having for dinner tonight , a sale pitch for my website. After I give the talk I give it one look over to see that it recorded. Of course I cringe at every umm, ahh and pause I hear, but its getting better. I hear them less frequently, I try not to shift my weight all the time. Later on in the evening I will give it a couple more viewings to objectively pick out any good or bad points.

Afterwards I delete the video. I’d like to keep the video for reviewing later on to see my progress. However at the moment I feel more comfortable with the knowledge that no one else will see these practise videos. As my own confidence improves I hope to keep the videos I produce and publish them online as part of my blog.

Please feel free to let me know what you think about this technique and I hope this has been of interest to you.

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