I have an important presentation today and I was informed last thursday that I have to present as well. It was out of my domain but something my company and extended team is working on. We are presenting in a group so any topic could go to anyone to increase participation. Here I was, thinking I won’t have to present as I am busy with another task. I started my ground work by interacting with team mates to gather more information.
So this senior told me the topic and my field of work are unrelated and I can not combine the two, more questions arose and the day ended before I could touch base with my manager (who assigned me the topic). Come to the last day of the week, it is already the day for mock presentation. I have nothing put together and another teammate had 3 whole slides up already! I have learned this from my manager and in this new work environment that I should speak my mind clearly and not hesitate to bring up difficulties and roadblocks. It turned out nobody else had prepared their parts other than the one teammate who was ready. I seeked my manager’s help and got a good start. My unrestful state was calmed after realizing that the expectation from me is not to deliver the presentation to a group of subject matter experts. On the contrary, I am expected to convey the topic in layman’s terms and can be simple with my slides. What a relief it was. I could come out of the questions that ‘I have not worked on this and how will I combine my work with this’. I started from scratch.
Friday went by (talk about procrastinating much). I got engaged in weekending and thinking I will find time to work outside of office hours, did nothing significant until Sunday late night. I saw Swamiji’s discourse on studying or focusing on a work for 25minutes and then take a break. Practice correctly and repeat what you learned to store it in the memory permanently. Now he talked about many ways and how to effectively work and absorb material.
I now knew I had less time, I asked my 2 roommates to come sit with me and study as well. They happily agreed as they had their work and studies to do. We sat down in one room with our laptops and started with our own studies. I put my phone away and pulled up useful links and resources to go through before making a slide. I covered the basics of the topic, it was past midnight and my roommates closed their work as they were sleepy. The good part was that we all productively worked on our tasks in that 1-2 hours window. I had told them that I will explain the concept to them once done. So I sat them down, the three of us are from different field of studies.
The group was fairly diverse. One finance major, one Computer Science and the third one Electrical Engineer. I explained the concept to them with analogies that I built right then and there. They asked me good questions which I was happy about, I did serious thinking in the conversation we were having. It helped me to push myself to explain my field of work to somebody completely unaware of it. I went on to explain what I actually work on and what my Company does broadly. Trust me it is another level of contentment to be able to explain your area of work to somebody new. Take for example, you are a Data Scientist and your kid is in class 5 and is asking you what you do in the office. If you can explain to your kid what you do, you can explain it to anybody! My manager had said the same things in the Friday meeting!
Lo and Behold it is Monday and the rehearsal time is approaching, I put together my 2 slides (it doesn’t seem much but I prepared pages to speak out of 2 bullet points and illustrations on the slide, because who actually reads your slides ever!) I discarded the system architecture altogether as it was getting complex and impossible to fit in the slide, let alone explain it to other teams in the organization who have little knowledge of the concepts I am talking about. It is more like sharing knowledge and presenting your work to another starta of the company. I am in the meeting now and my whole team is present, me and my teammate were discussing how much we have put on the slide just before the meeting and I asked her to give me a couple minutes to gather my thoughts. I hadn’t made cue cards for me and no notes to read from. I was going to speak freely. Now, the best part was that we couldn’t see each other, so the anxiety was almost nullified though I am not super nervous in these situations.
A little digression (skip 2 paras to get to the point) :
I have always taken part in co-curriculars in my school days, then undergrad (bachelors) then in my first place of work and finally masters. I have been inclined towards leadership roles throughout my life. Those roles have helped me to gradually let go of my shyness, inhibitions and stage fright. I can say that I am not bad at breaking the ice or driving a group if I have a mic in my hand. I may have performed more and anchored less but that physically and mentally allowed me to be comfortable in public scrutiny. What worse will happen? I am already here, I have to start blurting and get done with it. When I was little, in 1st standard, I used to get fever right before an important day like the school annual function where I would be performing. I remember 2 instances vividly where I couldn’t even go to school on the performance day. I think I used to get either too excited or too anxious about the day that I developed a fever. I would be constantly thinking and speaking about it and jumping around the house as my mother tells me and the next morning I am down, lol. So slowly I started enjoying being on stage and getting an opportunity to come up and speak/dance/recite/act in front of the audience. This one time I froze while at an extempore. The topic was as follows : “Terrorists are not born, they are made” and this is how I started : “Terrorists are not made, they are born”. Sitting in the audience waiting for my turn, I was so excited, I had gone to another school to speak and I was a teen then! My content was ready and I was reciting it in my head over and over, broad smile on the face and no nervousness. But the moment I went on stage and made a blunder while opening my speech, I went numb. I couldn’t speak much farther and just said Thank You and came off the stage. How embarrassing it was for me and my schoolmates who had come for the competition.
I swear, I didn’t wanna talk to anybody post that. I came back to my school and the person I liked (it was a mutual admiration) was there waiting to ask me how it went. He had already found out from another friend (you know how things work in school when you have a crush on somebody, you know practically everything they do all day, haha.) I developed a little fright but thankfully I pushed myself and my teachers helped equally as they believed in me and overcame this stage fright soon after. Next, I anchored in one of the school fancy dress competitions (making sure my crush wasn’t around in the audience, :P) I was literally just sent on stage by my teacher to drive the competition. Now, we have all sat in the audience laughing, boohooing and mocking the anchor. I was no different and now that I was anchoring on stage, I wanted to be natural, witty and humorous, not sound cliched or boring. It went well and my crush did hear me on the loudspeaker :D. I only went up and above from that point on. I have had my share of bloopers but I handled it with laughing louder than the other person!
Coming to present day :
The first person to go wasn’t ready yet so I had to start the rehearsal. I opened by thanking the previous speaker like I would do in an actual one. I spoke confidently, looking at the laptop thinking I was seen by the audience and did not fumble much. I asked an interactive question first and went on to explain my topic with examples and analogies. I believe that analogies make it easier for the listener to understand the topic. I covered the 2 slides in the stipulated 5 mins window, keeping room for on spot questions and welcoming the next speaker on the dias. There! I did well in the rehearsals and it makes me feel more confident for the actual presentation, later tonight. I listened to my teammates speak next and noted things that I need to improve in my time duration. Well, I am still polishing and revising the topics I will go over and whatever comes in the flow of the presentation will be great and non robotic like always! In conclusion, the idea of explaining it to my housemates first, added to my preparation and I wasn’t nervous while speaking at the rehearsals and I could dedicate the right amount of time in studying effectively. Wish me luck, 4 hours to go!
Many thanks if you read till the end and lot’s of good wishes if you choose to share something in the comments 💕