It's Not About You: How NOT to Focus on "You" During Presentations

Posted by Dawn Stanyon
January 27, 2015

by Dawn Stanyon

dawn-stanyon-1You’ve no doubt been laboring away at presentations for long enough to know that the delivery of the content isn’t about you; it’s for the benefit of your audience. So, why do we get so worked up about presentations – whether in a small meeting or larger venue?

Social anxiety and low self-esteem aside, why can’t we get out of our own heads?

No newsflash here: Whether we are engaging extroverts or introspective introverts, we get worked up about presentations because we actually DO think it’s about us. We humans are selfish and narcissistic creatures (see me raising my hand here, “Oooh! Oooh! Mr. Kotter!").



These nerves are simply part of our survival instinct – fight or flight and all that. That instinct in no way helps us to be effective and authentic communicators.

Here are three tips to get out of your head when presenting:

  1. Everyone has to work hard to deliver effective presentations. Part of our worry when presenting is that we’ll be perceived as frauds. We project that the guy in front row with his arms crossed is thinking “She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” If you want to be confident up there and truly sell your content, you do need to be as knowledgeable about the topic as possible. You need to put in the time to get the pay off. Sure, it seems like some people can do this “off the cuff,” and maybe some can, but most have to devote time and energy into any presentation. Do you think The Moth Radio storytellers and dynamic conference keynote superstars just get up in the morning, shower, eat a hearty breakfast, and deliver? Think again: Everyone has to work hard to present effectively.

  2. Dress to impress - yourself. I’m a professional image consultant. I talk to people regularly about overcoming-stage-frightworkplace dress and how to project personal brand. Here’s the honest truth: When you present, you need to wear clothing that makes you feel strong. If you dress a certain way because you believe that is what is required, during the presentation you’re going to think about how tight the waist is or that you want to scratch the back of your neck where the tag is tickling you.

    If you work in a business formal workplace but don’t feel confident in a gray suit, white shirt and red tie, wear a gingham shirt and match it with a vibrant tie – be your lively self. If you are uncomfortable in your body because of weight gain, go out and buy clothing that makes you feel comfortable, professional and confident (size doesn’t matter!). If you work in a very business casual workplace but need a jacket to feel confident, put one on (Someone may say, “Hey, you got all dressed up today.” Answer: “I did. You’re worth it.”
  3. Be excited to share your information. Once you’ve prepped both content and yourself, adjust your mindset. Your presentation is not about you and how you are perceived, it’s not even about the exact content in a specific way: it’s about sharing information that will make a difference to your audience. Be positive and altruistic in your thinking. As Shawn Achor says in his famous TED Talk (viewed 9.4 MILLION times!), “Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than at negative, neutral or stressed.” Be excited about conveying your info whether it’s about lug-nut production, new technology development or financial projections. I often will say, “I am so excited to be here today to share what I know about X.” Your audience will be with you and embrace your enthusiasm even if they don’t care about the topic.


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