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Stage Fright

Posted on 2007/08/07 23:32:53 (August 2007).

[Tuesday 7th August]
Today at work I had been tasked with making a presentation to the rest of the engineers at our office about the work my team does. Although the actual presenting effort was split up between the guys on my team, I had somehow ended up with arguably the most difficult bit - the initial "Why are we doing this in the first place?".

It went rather badly, and I found the whole incident really quite embarassing.

I'm definitely not someone who is immune to being nervous in situations like this, however I had thought I had gradually got better at presenting over the last few years, and whilst I would certainly never say I was great at this sort of thing, I was at least confident I could put in a respectable performance, when I knew what I was talking about. Towards the end of my last job I'd given a big presentation to a large room full of big cheeses at a well known software company (see here) and as my blog recalls I had got through that feeling rather pleased with myself.

Prior to that, in my previous previous job, I had occasionally given lectures at university on digital TV - and again, whilst mine probably wasn't the most inspiring speech those students will have ever witnessed, I felt it was a coherent and informative presentation, of reasonable quality, and I felt comfortable doing it

I've spent the last six months or so of my new job burying myself in this new project, and I was pretty sure I really understood the motivation for it, and what were the really great things about our approach. When I've spoken to people about it individually I've always thought I was able to do a fairly convincing sales pitch for the whole thing.

...and yet all that said, today, as soon as I got in front of that room full of 50 or so people, it all fell apart somehow. It must have shown that I was rather on the nervous side. My slides had been re-arranged at the last minute, and so I ended up stumbling about and missing some of the really important bits - which my colleagues then rather unhelpfully heckled me about. I only did about 15 minutes or so at the start, but I was so keen to hand over as soon as possible when I got to the end of my bit.

Ali (my PhD supervisor) told me that the great Tony Hoare admitted to feeling nervous before every presentation or lecture he gave, even after a very distinguished career of doing this on a very regular basis.

So maybe it's just one of those things. As I mentioned on the message board it is good to do badly at something every now and again - it keeps one humble.

Still though it is somewhat frustrating, having thought I'd got better at doing this sort of thing, to realise that really you have no control over it. You can't say to yourself "Oh, I'll just stop being nervous then", and when you do feel nervous in that sort of situation it inevitably shows and ruins the whole thing. The specifics of the situation are particularly regrettable - this presentation was partly a means of introducting our team to the wider group at our office... and their first impression of me will be of somebody doing a very amateur job of a presentation.

Oh well, you can't be good at everything I suppose.

Comment 1

You still have your job, so it cannot have been so BAD!! :D

Posted by Lox at 2007/08/08 08:04:15.

Comment 2

This is probably on a par with my being asked to do a Power Point presentation recently when I didn't have Power Point.
Win some, lose some.

Posted by John's Mum at 2007/08/09 10:15:43.

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