I thought my presentation was going OK, then 1 person killed it at the end. How you can learn from my experience

Do some people put you off?

Have you ever had to give a presentation and been afraid, or thought that it wasn’t quite hitting the mark? I have found out that it isn’t uncommon to be put off by the presence of somebody in the audience. Here’s the story of how I learnt it. I frequently give presentations, varying from 10 minutes to over an hour and people generally consider me to be good at doing so (at least I get good feedback and nobody falls asleep). However, I recently gave one that seemed to be just not quite working for the audience and the actions of one person at the end appeared to kill it off altogether.

Why it died.

This particular presentation was based around a joke, it would be fair to say is was a bad joke, but it had some good business lessons in it. On starting I allowed myself to think “uh oh, she’s in the audience”; that was my first mistake. I went through the presentation, had allowed myself to be put off and then got to the punch-line. One person made it known that they were not amused, the same person that I had allowed myself to be put off by. Interestingly, they had sufficient gravitas to stop anybody else expressing themselves publicly.

What to do if confronted by somebody that puts you off.

I have written an article about being put off of your stride, it contains nine tips to help when somebody puts you off. The biggest two from the list are to not think about them all the time (if you think about them rather than your performance it will only get worse) and to not show self deprecation (Humility definitely has it’s place in Leadership, but this is not a time to make jokes at your own expense – your nemesis may add their own ridicule and humiliation).

Have faith in yourself.

I learned two great lessons from that presentation; the first was by chatting privately to some other people there. They were on my side, not hers! They thought it was good, a terrible punch line, but not worthy of the reaction it got. It is not uncommon for most of the audience to be on your side, if they think you are being “mistreated”. The second lesson was to not be put off. I repeated the same presentation five other times, every time it was really well received, both the punch line and the key points were really liked. Don’t let yourself focus on the people you don’t like in the room, focus on the good job you know that you can do.

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