Presentation Skills – Presenting to “Big Guns”

Audiences that strike fear inside

One of the most frequent fears expressed by presenters is that of presenting to senior managers or executives or any of the so called “big guns”.

The question is: Why does positional status seem to add to presentation stress?
What makes seniority and status a cause for added anxiety and maybe even paralyzing fear and what makes them different from presenting to anyone else?

I have experienced this mind-numbing self-inflicted pain several times before because of my previous value system. And I have sought out reasons why I am scared to present to the so called  big guns in organizations, churches or Politics etc. I have found out that most people are suffering from the same self- inflicted pandemic. In this article I will suggest a few tips on how to conquer fear of presenting to the Big guns. I have used these tips and the results were great.

Here are my Reasons why I have felt the fear of Presenting in front of Big Guns:

1. When I fear making mistakes, then doing so in front of people that can influence my future prospects felt like being ostracized.

2. When I assume that senior people may have more knowledge of the topic than I do, and then further assume that I will make a fool of myself – which is the greatest fear of all.

3. When I assume that the seniors could be waiting with difficulty questions to prove that they know more and that their motives maybe for wanting me to fail.

4. When I value (seniors) other people’s intelligence above my own, whilst mistakenly devaluing my own intelligence in the process.

5. When I assume that the seniors are already accomplished presenters than I am, of which some are often not.

These fears may be less predominant on your list, but it’s always possible that one or more of these fears is valid, but more often they are figments of our own imagination. The stark reality is that because time is so precious, most executives and audiences in general would prefer to attend a really worthwhile presentation – so as not to waste their time. So be rest assured that senior people and audiences are rooting for you to be successful in your presentation, as your failure will be a waste of their time as well, and that does not help anyone.

So what should you do if you find yourself in a scenario of being so nervous about the pending presentation?Research, prepare properly and make sure you know your topic very well. A few rehearsals in advance are a must and as such highly recommended.
Refrain from over rehearsing as that will make you become too detailed and or too technical. That becomes boring for the listener and besides it takes you longer to prepare. Busy 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.

Remember this, senior or not, audience members are humans, just like you and I. Their brains are no bigger or smaller than yours.Some are also blessed with a sense of humor and even enjoy a good quip.

So it is helpful to build in some short stories and humor in your presentations. From what I have gathered over the years humor is the angel’s cocktail. It brings out endorphins, oxytocin and dopamine in the brains of a listener. When people laugh, their minds open up and they become creative and to an extent that your message is easily understandable and you as the presenter you become easily likable as well. So be light hearted and relaxed. They will like that approach and chances are, they will like your presentation too.


Jabulani B Mangena

Midrand Club