In my early career, I lived in mortal dread of giving a formal presentation. If my nervousness got the better of me, I could make a fool of myself, I thought. And then the worst happened. I was in the middle of a talk when I went blank. I forgot what I had said before I froze, and I lost track of what I was about to say. I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me.
Now I had this mishap during a presentation skills course, so I was relieved it was not too public. I sat down to watch the recording of my talk with my colleagues, bracing myself for them to ridicule me for my disastrous performance.
But to my surprise, when we reached the point in the talk where I froze, no-one picked up on it. In fact, I was hard pressed to notice the glitch even though I knew where it happened. I had gone blank for what seemed like an eternity, but in the replay, it was a minor pause.
It was a lightbulb moment.
I learnt we are much harder on ourselves than we need to be. It also struck me that people do not notice as much as we think they do. From then on, I found that if I take my attention off myself and put it on my audience, much of my nervousness dissipates.
“It is not about you,” is a lesson that applies not just to presentations but also to leadership. Ken Blanchard, the doyen of servant leadership, supports this idea in his book co-authored with Mark Mitchell, The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do.
He suggests, “People who want to be great leaders must embrace an attitude of service to others.”
🙋 How do you put your attention on to others? 🙋♀️
Best regards, Brian