Many years ago, just a few months after I started my career I attended a Presentations skills course.
We had to come prepared with a presentation that was not to do with work which we would deliver to our follow delegates (all of whom where senior to me) and 5 area managers… scary guys with pin striped suits and everything.
What was even more scary was that the presentation was being filmed and, it being 1988, the video camera was the size of a suitcase. It had a wooden tripod for God’s sake.
Now, I know it’s hard to believe but I was young and brash so when they asked who would like to go first I jumped out of my seat like a stabbed rat.
I got to the flipchart where my prepared presentation was waiting and…
It had all gone from my mind, which was blank. Silence stretched…
And it was then I lost control of my hands. They wandered down towards my nether regions and, oh no, they started fiddling with my flies.
I didn’t know this at the time, of course; it was all sub-conscious. It was only when we watched the video back that the full horror of what I’d done dawned on me.
Eventually one of the Area Managers asked if I wanted to take five minutes to compose myself.
‘Not really,’ says I. ‘I want the ground to open up and to swallow me. No I don’t, I want the ground to open up and swallow you lot.’
Finally I was composed enough to do the presentation and then watch the video back.
After the laughter had died down from the other delegates the facilitator set about me.
‘Now, Richard, what do you think went wrong?’
What a stupid question! Forgetting my words or fiddling with my nuts… you could have either of those two things.
I can say, though, that I do the job I do because of that day on a Presentations Skills course. It cured my fear of doing presentations, taught me some techniques for opening words and it left me with a lasting feeling of pressure before any presentation I make… a pressure that makes sure I give each and every presentation the attention it deserves.
In fact, I can go as far as saying that I wouldn’t have had the life I’ve had (so far) if it wasn’t for that course.
By the way, I was given the video tape to watch back again and again.
For all I know it’s still in a bin, in a lay-by on the A14 near Hemingford Grey!