When it comes to presentations, what do you struggle with the most?

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You can be sure of one thing: you are not alone in in this fight – I had serious problems with my first presentations many years ago. Now, I’m happy to share my experiences and knowledge with you. Want to know about my struggle? I’ll tell you about it and also, how the struggle transformed into something I really enjoy.

During my years creating presentations I’ve had to overcome a series of obstacles.

When more than 10 years ago my boss told me that my latest idea was a good one and that I should create a presentation, initially I was speechless. Not that it was the first time she’d complimented me, but as a technical person I didn’t consider presentations to be a part of my job description. I told her, that’s great, but I don’t know PowerPoint. Oh, I was young and naive…

My excuse was based on truth: I had never opened PowerPoint in my life. We all struggle in some way or another with the software because it’s complex and needs specific skills. The software was my first obstacle to overcome on the way to creating presentations.

So I created my first presentation, but even by bad PowerPoint standards, it truly looked awful. I had a new challenge: to create something pleasing for my colleagues to look at. I was clueless at the beginning, but fortunately a few years into my work as a presentation creator I came across Garr Reynolds, an author that had just started publishing a blog called Presentation Zen.

It’s quite interesting that I thought first about how my slides looked bad and that only later did I devote time to a much more fundamental question: how to structure the presentation. What goes in the beginning, what belongs at the end, how to transition from one point to the other. Studying script writing and falling in love with the works of Joseph Campbell helped me tremendously in regards to structuring a presentation. The work that I’ve done is deeply reflected in what Presentation Hero is today.

While I was figuring out how to create effective and beautiful visuals I encountered another problem. I had terrible stage fright. Even before the term was popular, I was an introvert. And as an introvert I needed some techniques to support me when I needed to “act extroverted.”

The one single thing that saved me was deep domain knowledge of what I was presenting. The fact that I had a profound understanding of what I was talking about made the fear just bearable.

I have come a long way since then, but I still fear that moment when I step on the stage and begin my presentation. Now, however, I actually enjoy that fear. It’s a bit of a paradox, I know, so let me explain. Experience has told me that I can overcome that fear (giving many presentations has cured me at least of that), but it never goes away. Its lasting presence serves as a reminder of the importance of what I’m doing. Fear is a reminder that the task is difficult, that it requires presence, attention and care.

Fear reminds me that the beginning of a presentation is an important encounter. It’s like shaking hands with 10, 20 or 40 people at the same time (or even more). It’s hard. It requires a lot of energy.

I like that fear now because it underlines that – even though I am now considered an expert – I need to prepare. It reminds me most of all that I need to respect the act of presenting, respect my topic and – most of all – respect the audience in front of me.

Presentations don’t come easy to me – to paraphrase the song. And this is the main reason why in recent years I’ve developed a trusted system to support me when I create them.

When I say system I mean a pattern, a blueprint, a set of processes that I can apply every time I need to create, design and deliver a presentation. When I say trusted I mean a reliable, repeatable and scalable process based on previous experiences.

I fear presentations, fear the exposure, fear the shame in failing. That’s why I need a process that is rooted in previous success, that I can rely on any time I need to create something new.

I am still on a journey. Each time I give a presentation I try to tell a better story, create better visuals and deliver with more empathy and confidence. I know that I can improve in all of these areas and I look forward to my next presentations as the means for doing so.

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