Confidence in the Heat of Battle
February 15, 2021
I woke up today extremely excited!
I was scheduled to speak to MBA students for an international business school in the Boston area on the topic “Presenting Yourself with Confidence in the Job Search.”
I was ready. My presentation looked beautiful, I loved my content, and I was pumped to motivate and inspire the students that they can and will find a job.
I logged on 15 minutes early to make sure all the tech was working correctly. My host and I were able to connect and warm up a little bit so that we’d be ready.
While we spoke, I mentioned that I had just bought a new monitor that I would be using for the very first time. I was excited that I would be able to see my presentation on a larger screen instead of on my tiny laptop.
When we first started the presentation, everything looked like it was working.
But then as I started sharing my screen, my whole presentation disappeared. I could no longer see what I was supposed to talk about!
You might be wondering if I printed a hard copy as back up. Unfortunately, I did not.
Do you see where this is going? Because it gets worse.
As I’m scrambling to get my thoughts in order so I can present without my notes, my screen freezes. They can hear me, but they only have a frozen image of me.
My contact and I got on the phone. “Jayne, what do you want to do? Do we need to scrap the whole thing?”
And then I remember… one of the people in the room is the DEAN. What a first impression I’m making!
It would have been easy to freak out and bail at that point.
But I was also in a position to demonstrate how to behave in this kind of situation.
I was under the gun… in the heat of battle! Do I give way to the stress and fear, or do I step up with confidence and manage the situation?
I chose option 2 and focused on the problem at hand.
“How can I get on this call?” I asked myself. My cell phone will have to do.
I log on with my cell phone… and success! I can see my host, the students can see me, and after a bit of time… ah-ha! I see my presentation. Yessssss!
I have a facilitation style of presenting where I like the participants to engage with me. It helps when I can see them, so not being on a big screen put me at a disadvantage.
However, I was able to draw them in and get them engaging with me. I could feel the energy in the room rising.
I wish my story ended here, but it does not.
We finally got things moving and we made it almost all the way through my presentation, but then..
My fully-charged phone started acting up. It kept stuttering and freezing. I kept thinking that maybe it had tossed me out of the Zoom all, but then it would start working again.
Since my host could see the presentation at her end, I asked her to read what was on the last slides so I could talk about them. After that, we rolled into the Q&A.
It mostly worked, but apparently the sound was intermittent. They could hear a few words, but then they’d miss a few, hear a few, miss a few.
Finally, I got kicked out of Zoom and I couldn’t get back into the call.
Whether I wanted to be or not, I was done.
At this point, you might think that I settled in for a good cry while beating myself up about everything that went wrong.
But I have to say… I didn’t do any of those things!
Instead, I breathed a big sigh of relief.
I did recognize that it had been the most challenging presentation I had ever given! And I was feeling quite proud of how I handled it. Even though the technology caused me trouble at every turn, I felt confident in my ability to talk about this topic and that’s what carried me through.
I knew my content and the actual flow of the presentation, and I could tell that the students were engaged.
What mattered was how my contact felt because she recommended me and remember the DEAN was in attendance as well.
Not long after the event ended, my host called me “You did an amazing job!” she told me. “You are a master! If you can handle this situation, you can handle anything.”
She also told me that the Dean was impressed with my presentation and how I managed the tech challenges. Sweet relief!
Some of the practical lessons here are:
- Print a copy of your presentation.
- Practice using your new technology before you use it to present.
- Know your content well.
There’s an intangible lesson here as well:
- Don’t panic. Focus on solving the problem.
When you’re dealing with a tough situation in front of other people, this is actually an opportunity!
Nothing says more about you than how you respond when things aren’t working right.
The reason that my host and the Dean were impressed is because I didn’t let the challenges rile me up. Instead, I found answers, and used those to persevere.
Have you ever experienced anything like this, where every time you turned around, something would go wrong? Please share it in the comments so we can celebrate your perseverance!
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