I just witnessed an unfortunate situation during a presentation. A client asked me to sit in on a meeting to learn more about what they were trying to accomplish and understand how I might be able to support their efforts.
The CEO of the company was speaking to a group of people outside the company.
When he came up to the front of the room, he had a very serious look on his face. A colleague of his leaned over to me and said..”Uh oh. He’s ticked off.” It was obvious something was wrong but as an audience member, I had no idea what it was about other than he looked angry. It was unsettling.
The CEO continued his remarks and never lightened up on his tone. Do you think the audience focused on his message or his tone?
Occasionally unexpected interactions or disruptions can cause all of us to become frazzled or thrown off our game before a speech or presentation. It could be a late plane, an emergency call from home or work about a problem you can do nothing about or as in this case, an unpleasant business interaction.
Whatever it was, he needed to shake it off before going up there because the vibe he was projecting was incongruent with his message.
The most compelling example of managing difficult emotions before a presentation happened a while ago yet still stays with me as a reminder today.
A speaker I know was scheduled to give a seminar on sales strategies a couple of days after the horrific events of 9/11. He did a wonderful job, according to everyone who attended. Nobody knew that his brother, a New York City firefighter, was counted among the missing in the fallen World Trade Center. Quite obviously he was upset about this, not knowing whether his brother would be found alive or dead, so I later asked him, how he was able to go on with the event under such devastating personal circumstances.
What he said to me was this: “When I fly somewhere, I don’t want to know whether the pilot’s having a bad day. His job is to get me there safely, and that’s all I care about. The same is true of me. I’m being paid to show up and help people do what they need to do better, and sharing my problems won’t help them do that.”
I was very moved by what he said.
Hopefully, most of us won’t have to contend with this dire a situation. Here’s a suggestion if you find yourself in a sticky situation that gets you ticked off or upset, go where you can be quiet for a few moments, take a deep breath and redirect your attention onto your audience.
When the presentation is over, you may find there's a positive result of refocusing your attention as well: a calmer response to the original situation.