Debugging your presentation skills

April 19, 2023 Jacqueline Guiter
Debugging your presentation skills

For many people public speaking is their worst phobia. The second worst is dying. So, if you dread speaking in public, you're not the only one. Everyone gets nervous in such situations. This is a complex communication issue, so let's break it into manageable solutions.

It's time to change your mindframe: move your attention away from the thought “They will think I'm a terrible speaker” to the thought “I know exactly what I have to say.”

Move your focus from your weakness to your strength

Your negative internal thoughts stem from focusing on your weaknesses – which makes you feel insecure – to your strengths, which make you feel self-confident. When we feel confident internally we can project that externally as well.

Let's say you are preparing to make a presentation in English, and it's your second language. You might be focusing internally on this idea: “My English is not good enough.” Forget about whatever your shortcomings are in English, and leave that for another time when your goal is to improve your English, because that is not your goal right now. Your goal now is to deliver your presentation as best as you can. So, focus on your strengths: the content of your presentation, where you know you can excel.

Once you focus on what you are going to say, your self-confidence mode will instantly kick in and rein in your entire presentation.

Additionally, for a little extra boost, make sure you work on the structure of your presentation as well.

Then, if you think you need to work on your English, dedicate specific time to it, by all means – just don't focus on that during your presentation, that is not the right time to worry about your English.

Preparing for your presentation: solve some issues first

  1. Practice before an important presentation - run it by a family member or a co-worker, or make a mock presentation by yourself. Listen to their feedback, and adjust your presentation if necessary. Even one such try will make it much better when it's time for the real thing.
  2. Surprisingly often, people struggle with their hardware, software, or internet connection during the presentation. Check in advance that you have a reliable internet connection, check your microphone, and learn how to share your screen in the video conferencing software that you'll be using.
  3. Don't get sidetracked by diving too deep into details that no one asked for. You will lose your audience's attention. Don't go into details unless they're relevant or somebody asks.
  4. Make sure you reserve some time for Q&A and clarifications.

Exercises to organize the contents of your speech

Before your next meeting, check yourself: Do you hesitate to confidently propose your strategies and initiatives because you feel nervous about your English? If the answer is yes, your first goal should be to shift your focus. Focus on what you want to say - both content and structure – instead. Then, organize your thoughts before you speak.

Here is a sample framework for sharing your ideas and proposals in meetings.

Step #1. Announce the issue

I've noticed that our deployment pipeline is a bit slow. I often catch myself watching YouTube videos and losing focus in general while waiting for the deployment to finish.

Step #2. Start with facts

In my previous project it used to take the deployment 5 minutes to finish, and currently we need about 25 minutes from push to production.

I've already tried to speed up the deployment in my own time, and managed to do so for Selenium: it used to take 15 minutes, and now it only takes 5 minutes, since it runs in parallel.

Step #3. Make a proposal and elaborate on benefits

I've spent some time researching the problem, and I have an idea of how we should approach this. If we add caching and make some of the jobs run in parallel, we could get our deployment time under 5-7 minutes. It definitely looks doable.

For me personally, this would greatly improve my productivity, since I wouldn't have to wait for so long every time I push code, and lose focus. This would also be beneficial for crash recovery - the faster we can deploy the fix, the less downtime we're going to have.

I think if we spend a few more days refining our deployment pipeline, we could probably get it done.

Step #4. Ask for feedback

Ask your audience:

This 4-step framework is only an example, which won't necessarily apply to every situation. So, create your own framework to suit your needs.

Then, prepare and practice it before your next meeting until it feels natural, and your self-confidence will take the reins and you will feel in control.

Over time, this will become a normal approach to sharing your ideas, and you will do it spontaneously.

Final tip

Always remember this, and repeat this thought in your mind like a mantra: The thought of doing something is often worse than actually doing it.