Working Away Presentation Anxiety


Medical Conferene Presentation

I’ve presented, emceed, hosted many different events to audiences of several to several thousand.  Although the audience has remarked how natural and comfortable I appear, there are always some nerves and nervousness I feel before the presentation.

That doesn’t stop me from presenting or performing.  In fact, I’ve learned to enjoy it!

Here are some practical pointers you could use whether you’re a novice or a seasoned presenter:

  1. ‘Butterflies’ are expected.  In fact they are good!  Physiologically, the body protects itself from stressful situations by stimulating the nervous system to ‘fight’ mode.   This is an automatic response and very natural.   The ‘fight' mode allows a higher level of alertness; energy is created by burning off stored sugar; the eyes dilate.  A little nervous energy is good because it’s a like a shot of caffeine when you get up in the morning. It jump starts your awareness.  Too much stimulation is not good, and that why the rest of the advice comes in handy (especially how you can slow your nervous system down).
  2. Know your material well.  This comes with practice, practice, practice.  It’s ok to have notes or a PowerPoint, but you’ll lose your audience if you look like you’re reading because you are not prepared.  That’s because you forgo eye contact and connecting with your audience. Practice your first few sentences over and over.  Once you get started and the ice breaks, things flow much better.
  3. Connect with your audience.  Ice breakers are good for them and they are good for you.  They relax, and you relax by releasing the first bundle of energy.  It doesn’t have to be overly long or drawn out or hilariously funny.  A simple hello and greeting and using non-verbal cues such as smiling, eye contact, open postures like not crossing your arms always help.  By the way, laughter helps release tension.
  4. Know your audience. Sometimes this is not possible, but you might have to alter your presentation to be understandable.  For example, non-medical people would probably glaze over if I used too many medical terms.  Also, Millennials might be on their devices the entire time and not appear engaged when in fact they are communicated.  Watch for audience clues such as snoring or falling asleep.  It might mean it’s time for a break or change in style!
  5. Familiarize yourself with the room and the stage beforehand.  Walk the stage, notice the lighting, which can be bright.  Some stages don’t have podiums, or have monitors or tele-prompters instead.  It’s always good to make sure your microphone is on!

To help calm excess energy, there are simple maneuvers you can do:

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10 Simple Rules to Throwing a Great Party


party boys

My mother was a great hostess.  I think this was something innate in her gregarious family, and also learned from her years working as a diplomat in the United Nations in New York in the 1960’s. The photo is from one of the great parties she used to throw for us.  Can you guess who I am?

She passed me on a few tips I’d like to share with you.

So here are my 10 simple rules to hosting a successful party:

  1. You’re the host, be happy!  Your guests will follow your cues and your energy. Greet them warmly when you first see them, say a little something personal to make them feel they are part of the event.  If they bring a gift or flowers, of course acknowledge it, but also spend a second looking at it so that they know you noticed their effort.
  2. You’re the host, embrace the stress!  Turn the stress into happy energy.  A party is a journey about to unfold and not a bullet train to the final destination.  It’s not possible to predict every circumstance, so if the unexpected happens, make it part of the memory.  If the caterer brought chocolate cake with vanilla frosting instead of vanilla cake with chocolate frosting, laugh it off with your guests and let them in on the secret.
  3. You’re the host, prepare for the stress!  Preparation, preparation, preparation.  It can be time consuming, but the party planning is half the fun, playing out the themes, music, food, and drinks. Start out with an idea, and see where it takes you.  Trying to find inspiration for a party, I remembered I had a string of lights.  I looked out to my backyard and saw a clearing surrounded by trees, which naturally created an intimate space.  I strung the lights over the clearing anchored by the trees, and voila, I had an event space!  I carried the outdoor theme and set up a picnic area with cushions and tables.  This lead to the picnic theme which meant picnic food, specialty spirit-enhanced lemonade, and C&W music.  All from a string of lights!
  4. You’re the host, and the star of your own show!  Give yourself permission to be your best self. You might want to buy something special to wear, or focus on your hairstyle, or carry a prop.  One of my fabulous friends threw a party in her very small apartment.  She embraced every moment (and space) by dressing up like Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” replete with a long cigarette holder.  The moment people walked in, they felt they were part of a movie!

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Our Educated Approach

Education was valued in my family, and seeking higher knowledge was an expectation.

Interestingly, what I have discovered in mid-life after all the degrees and titles, is that education is much more than formal schooling.

Have you ever gone away from a conversation with a person obviously of high intellect and degree and found yourself saying ‘boy, they have a lot to learn’?  Or ‘they sure can talk, but they have no clue’?

That’s because a formal education, despite being a necessary expectation, doesn’t complete the learning process necessary to have a fulfilling life and a successful career.

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