This feeling when you are presenting in front of an audience. It can reach from an absolute thrill to very strong and almost bottomless stage-fright. And sometimes it is all in one during one presentation.
You start off well because you have prepared yourself as good as possible. But then somewhere in the middle the faces of your audience just seem a bit too blank and maybe this person right in front of you is not just checking an important message on their phone but scrolling through social media. You are starting to wonder if the storyline you put together is really that intriguing and your voice just seems a bit too high-pitched for what you are trying to say. Did you put the right amount of text on your slides? And why exactly did you decide to wear that bright red shirt that now just seems like a desperate attempt to draw attention to yourself? Is that someone leaving to room/virtual meeting because your body language and all those “uhm’s” and “and’s” have tired them out and distracted from what you actually have to say?
I admit this is probably the worst-case scenario when you are presenting. But I am sure that pretty much everyone can relate to one thing or another that they have experienced while being in the spotlight on stage (be it virtual or in an actual room). This is exactly what we figured and the reason why we have started a “Speaker Enablement -Series”. It is dedicated to providing sessions on all of the above topics and more to help build the confidence but also the skill set to tackle almost anything that can come up while presenting or preparing a presentation.
We are continuously looking to offer new sessions in this area and are therefore, always looking for speakers. So, if you can share your experience on any of the above-mentioned issues, or if you know someone that you think might be a brilliant person to talk about this: please get in touch with us.
Because the better we can prepare our female experts to show their expertise on stage or elsewhere, the more visible they are going to become to everyone out there.
Me too, I can definitely relate to this as well @FHeyne and @kaitlingorman - not only when giving a presentation but also when having my Yoga class. And we need someone who tells us how to cope with these situations because our thoughts in that moment are only assumptions. Let me share in a brief story, how I meant this:
A couple of months ago I had a new attendee in my Yoga class. She has been brought by a friend of mine. It was a "light" class, basically for beginners, but that young lady didn't do much of the Yoga exercises (asanas) I instructed. I had the feeling she was bored and didn't like the class. I just focused on myself and try to not think it over. After the class, my friend and the young lady left almost immediately, as they had another appointment. But my friend called me later the evening and told me... drum roll 🥁... that her friend loved the class, it was so good and she couldn't do all the exercises because of the pain she felt as it was so long ago she did sports. She felt encouraged and motivated by my Yoga class to go back to sports ... can you image that? 😅
THAT's what someone needs to teach us - it's all in our mind! We are prepared and doing a great job! We need tools to keep this in mind, no matter what happens. Because we cannot control our audience but ourselves. 😉
Be ready to change...
I was at a Teched where I had very few people show up for my session. I had all these things I was going to say that I had prepared earlier. Now my motto is if I can reach just one person and help them - That is a win!
So - I moved in front of the session and gave the agenda. Then I sat down on the stage close to where my 5 people were (That's a guess at this point). I asked them what they wanted to focus on. Was it something in the agenda? Something that I might have the expertise to address.
Well that was a great and crazy session. We jumped around from topic to topic. And although I couldn't answer all the questions. A lot of the times one of the people attending could.
Keep in mind this was all in person - so no taping for people to see later. That meant no one would be disappointed.
That was my favorite presentation - I forgot about the powerpoint and the example I had prepared. They went onto the sessions somewhere - I don't even remember the year.
As far as "real" speaking advice, the more you do it the easier it is. Also if you could start with a group of people you really don't know - that's great. I always think to myself... I won't ever see them again. And of course prepare, prepare, prepare... My dogs love my speeches. Or the treats I pass out every now and then, but whatever.
Toastmasters is an international organization that provides years of expertise and a program to help you build speaking and leadership skills. Searching on SAP One it looks as if there are a few clubs within SAP. I know there are some public ones available as well which you could probably find on the Toastmasters site.
Another thing that comes to mind is taking improvisation classes. Some of the techniques and practice helps you be ready to adapt quickly. Actually, one part of Toastmasters when I went through it was 5 minute impromptu speeches.
Dear @FHeyne ! Thanks for the post and the call for speakers. I dream that one day I could join Florian Mueck workshops. It will be so great if women in tech can invite him.
Here you can learn more about this energizing person that have a good eye to point on speakers problems and solutions for them. https://www.florianmueck.com/
@FHeyne Dear FHeyne, what a great post! More often then not, it seems that we need to actually go through such a situation (even though very uncomfortable, I admit) in order to be able to assess on how one "should have" acted instead and being able to apply it the next time. For me, it was all trial and error, but more importantly, finding "my way" and "my voice" on how to be a speaker and how to "act" (body language and confidence is 50% of the deal) on stage.
One of the situations that immediately come to mind and that had most impact on me was just a few years ago: I was attending a Sales Academy training in San Francisco, when the opportunity presented itself to interview a well-known SAP executive on stage with about 300 SAP colleagues (whom I did not know) in the room. Only two minutes into the session, my interviewee's microphone battery dies. I felt the faces from the audience glancing to where I was sitting, eyes who were glued to phone screens looked up in my direction and it suddenly became silent. The focus needing to be on the interviewee, I acted on my instinct (my heart pounding in my chest, I will admit), took off my mic and gave it to my interviewee and suddenly had to triple my normal voice's volume firstly to tell a joke (only about half thought it was funny) assessing the technical difficulties to then continue the interview, as if nothing had happened. She played along, and continued answering the questions. Regardless, the audience had become quiet and I wondered whether something else was wrong?, was I too loud or not loud enough?, should I be acting differently?, did I do the right thing? all of these questions started to come, but I found the way to push them away and to keep focus on what I was there for: the interview. It all went fine in the end, and a lot of colleagues came up to me, complimenting on the ingenuity and perhaps a little surprised about my voice's volume ;). The interviewee was pleased and everybody was satisfied. Regardless, I did have to take a short stroll outside in order to calm down the nerves, haha.
Since then, I more actively "listened" to my instincts and help colleagues with mock-up interviews, presentations or any of the like, to confront them with unprecedented or unexpected situations and asking them how they would react. Rather counterintuitive exercise, but it truly helped them to listen to their "inner self" and act upon it - it boosted their confidence levels and gave them the feeling that they were "ready for it".
All that being said, I would be happy to be a speaker for an upcoming session!