You can practice a presentation as much as you want, but nothing can prepare you for staring down the barrel of eight VPs’ eyes as you try to justify your existence at the company. I had rehearsed my presentation. I had rehearsed my presentation, A LOT. I knew every single word in it’s precise order by the time it was time for me to present.
But I learned very quickly, as soon as I found myself standing in front of a panel of VPs, that saying a bunch of words over and over to yourself can only bring you so far. Nothing indicates how well you know something or how confident you are than when you’re under pressure like that.
For the first 80% of my presentation, it all went according to plan. Running on adrenaline, slides flew by in a blur. I don’t even remember that first 80% – it was all robotic. I distinctly remember thinking, “Wow, I’m doing pretty well right now…”, and then I froze. Of course. It felt like a bottomless pit was in my stomach. I stared out silently at the audience. I babbled on for what seemed like a good minute or two before I decided to pause, compose myself, and get back to the script. I finished without any further blips but that slip up tarnished my perfect performance I had worked so hard for. I let the pressure get to me and I buckled.
I learned that I should never memorize speeches or presentations like. Know your subject matter intimately and the points you want to make then speak from there. It comes with practice. And boy, do I intend to practice. Never again.