Leaders take risks. One of the scariest risks for beginning and seasoned leaders alike is making a presentation before an audience. But eventually you’ll have to do it. It’s how you extend others’ awareness of your value to the teachers and students. Unfortunately, Social Phobia—fear of social situations that can result in judgement, rejection or shame—is the topmost common fear.
So what can you do? Start small and with a familiar audience. Your first presentation may be to your fellow teachers. You know them and what they need to discover so they can be more successful at what they do. You’ve been showing them, one-on-one, how you support them. Now you are just opening it up.
Next level up may be to a parents’ group. While you don’t know them individually as you did with your colleagues, they will come to your presentation because they realize a gap in their knowledge you can fill, and you can show them ways to support their students. Sharing your expertise with them makes them more aware of what you bring to their kids every day.
Presenting to your state school library association or a national one is probably the scariest. Here you are speaking to your colleagues. A part of you may feel as though they know more than you and what are you doing there. (Ah, the ‘joys’ of Imposter Syndrome). Remind yourself a committee selected your proposal. They recognized you have something valuable to offer. Keep that in mind as you begin.
For all levels of presentation, preparation counts, and preparation includes your mindset. In addition to the content, you are presenting yourself—and that means you as a leader and the value of your program. Kevin Eikenberry describes how you can do this in Showing Up When It’s Your Time. Here are his tips:
Showing Up Aware -You are aware of the purpose of your presentation but think bigger. It may be a bigger opportunity than you realized. Something you say may spark a huge idea in someone in your audience. This might lead to a larger possibility, whether it’s a collaborative project with a teacher, a parent who now would like to create a library advocacy group, or it inspires an article or blog by you.
Showing Up Prepared – You want to be comfortable with the topic as well as how you plan to bring it. Technology blips (zoom, power point, internet connectivity) and questions going in an unexpected direction are always challenging and do occur. If you have a firm grip on your presentation and the material, you will respond confidently when the unanticipated occurs.
Showing Up at Our Best – Being rested and having eaten, as Eikenberry recommends, are a good start. Also, think about yourself and what makes you feel your best. You are likely to dress up for your presentation, but are you comfortable with what you are wearing? If you’re going to be standing for a long period, think about the shoes you’re choosing. If you may be photographed, think about the colors you’re wearing. This probably is not the day to try a new look. Don’t give yourself something else to worry about.
Showing Up Expectantly – Expect to succeed. An athlete going into a game expects to win. They may see themselves making a great play or crossing the finish line first. A positive mindset at the outset relaxes your body and makes you more engaging to your audience.
Showing Up Early – Always! This helps on so many levels. If you cut it too close, you will be agitated rather than relaxed when you arrive. You will have little time to “show up prepared” for those little glitches in plans. Also, arriving early allows you to mingle and talk with participants so that when you begin, they are already open to listening to you and you are already comfortable and familiar with them.
The hardest part of making presentations is getting started, but taking the risk is worth it. In the opening of the article Eikenberry quotes Woody Allen as saying, “90% of life is just showing up.” The idea is not to just show up, but to show off—your skills, your program, your leadership. And once you have a few successes under your belt, you’ll be ready for bigger stages in the future!