One of the most frequent fears expressed by student presenters is that of presenting to senior managers or executives. Why does positional status seem to add to presentation stress? What makes seniority a cause for added stress and what makes them different from presenting to anyone else?
- If we fear messing up, then doing so in front of people that can influence our future prospects can be daunting.
- We assume senior people may have more knowledge of the topic than we do, and will make fools of us – the greatest fear of all.
- We feel that they could be waiting for question time to grind us into the dust.
- We value their intelligence above our own, whilst mistakenly devaluing our own intelligence.
- We assume that they are already accomplished presenters, which they are often not.
- We fear they may have hidden motives for wanting us to fail.
It’s always possible that one or more of these fears is valid, but more often they are figments of our imagination. The stark reality is that because time is so precious, most executives would prefer to attend a really worthwhile presentation – so as not to waste their time. So they’re hoping you’ll be successful, as your failure only results in a waste of their time, and that’s no good to anyone.
The best approach is to do the necessary research, prepare properly and make sure you know what you’re going to say. A few rehearsals in advance is also highly recommended. There’s no point in becoming too detailed or technical – this will only bore them, and besides it takes you longer to prepare. Busy senior people like it when you get to the meat of your message quickly. They prefer your presentation to be a neat, tidy executive summary of your message.
Let’s remember that senior folk are human, just like we are. They usually have the same number of limbs and appendages as the rest of us. Their brains are no bigger or smaller than ours. Some are also blessed with a sense of humour and even enjoy a good quip.
So be light hearted and relaxed. They’ll like that approach and chances are, they’ll like your presentation too.