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Stage fright: If my presentation isn't perfect, I don't want to give it at all

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Stage fright: If my presentation isn't perfect, I don't want to give it at all

Some people have an extraordinary attitude for excellence. They relish the opportunity to push the envelope, to surpass standards, to do things better than ever before. Sometimes they try their hand at a new skill, and master it in a short time.

This is clearly an awesome talent, and the world is better off for having people like this in it.

But it is also a surprising source of stage fright.

Associated with this remarkable drive to be the best is, by definition, an aversion to mediocrity. While some people are quite content, and even relish, being in the second league, those with an extraordinary focus on driving standards ever higher are loathe to be associated with anything but the A-team.

They don't want to risk giving anything less than a polished performance. And that's where the stage fright comes from. They get very nervous when there's a chance of embarrassing themselves on camera. In fact, if their performance isn't worthy of an Oscar, they don't want to perform at all.

To them it doesn't matter whether they are performing on the night of nights for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, or giving a sales update at 10 o'clock on the Tuesday morning before quarterly book closing. It must be better than any performance they've ever given.

But the result of this dogged pursuit of improvement is often stage fright. Better to call it off, than to risk coming off "only" as good as last time.

The resulting nervousness is clearly a problem, especially in a business context. But there is also a solution.

It starts by understanding what makes a perfect presentation. How do you recognise it to be perfect?

Often the answer is, coming across word perfect. Everything has to work perfectly, if for no other reason than perfection itself. That means the slides have to be perfect, the delivery gold medal material.

And therein lies the problem. Audiences don't expect perfection.

In fact, the opposite is true. Audiences don't connect with perfect presenters. These presenters are so smooth and polished that we as members of audience start to wonder whether they're real, especially when the speaker is reading from a script.

Audiences connect far better with presenters who are conversational, and by definition that means all the inconsistencies and imperfections of the freely spoken word.

So, if you suffer this form of stage fright, remember that it's these imperfections that make your presentation perfect.

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Mark Laudi

Mark Laudi

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