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Are there any older creatives out there who were once bad presenters — but became good?

I’m in my mid thirties, but still quite bad at it. And it’s the one area I’m lacking in the most.

How did you get better? I get massive anxiety every time.

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TLDR: rewire ur mind, practice a lot, surround urself with good communicators

When I was mid to late twenties, I used to get panic attacks from presenting—melting down in the restroom to catch my breath. but now in my early 30s, it's a real strength. I did three things. Just three.

1) Practiced the fuk out of it—NOT just when it was presentation time. At home, on the street, everywhere. At home, by myself, if I was about to brush my teeth, I'd present OUTLOUD to myself why I was about to do it. If my friend asked for tech recommendations, I'd record a short voice note presenting what and why. I even got a bunch of Nintendo plush dolls, sat their plushy lil azzes down town hall style, and gave presentations about random shit. In ad school, id find a stage n practice aloud, with only yhe janitor hearing me—that janitor was my practice prop audienxe. It's a muscle. You build progressively. Dont judge ur presenation, like how i aint judging my pisspoor ungrammarly spelling deficiencies right now. just go full-on Nike mode and just do it over and over.

2) I rewired how I perceived things in my mind. When presenting, I'd be dying from the thought that I was being judged for my fumbling nerves. But I decided to just accept it, love it, fukin invite it. Judge my candyazz. Cuz at the end of the day, we all get nervous. Its human. I aint shiet and u, the listener aint shiet either—u bleed, cry, whine, n shiet like the rest of us. And then eventually, I became more comfortable. I still do get the butterflies but whats changed is how I respond to it. You are what u repeatedly tell urself and practice. U got this OP I promise u.

3) and finally surround urself with ppl who r good at communicating in general. Whether its a podcast host whos got great engaging energy or ur friend whos amazing at telling stories, u become influenced by them. In boxing and mma, if u go to a gym with real top fighters, u level up mentally ans physically just from being in the presence.

Anyway, go get it OP. It aint rocket science, every time u practice with intention, u are already improving~

likesmartfunny

Find one “friendly” in the meeting and focus on presenting to her/him.

Practice. Go through the presentation several times, out loud.

Smile. Make a little joke here and there to put your audience at ease.

Engage your audience. Ask a question. Create an exercise they can participate in. Just going through slides is boring as heck for everyone.


Enlist an assistant from the audience to help with a task, and thank them...not that you need their help, but anything you can do to break down barriers between you and your audience will make them much more engaged and the presentation much better.

Good luck—you can do this!

likeupliftinghelpful

I use to have crippling fear of presenting. I was so bad I couldn’t even talk sometimes. Like literally stop mid-sentence and couldn’t finish.

What I stopped doing was trying to “pitch” the work. If you know what I mean. And just talk more matter-of-fact.

This is the idea, here is an anecdote that explains how we got here, here are some insights that back up the idea, this is why the idea works for the ask.

I stopped trying to be clever and jovial, like I was on shark tank and just made it real.

Also, I started writing out scripts for myself. In a conversational tone. So that if I had to read it directly from the script, no one would know the difference.

But once you start writing it out, you start organizing your thoughts and figuring out what you need to say.

Just 10 months ago I got heart palpitations even from the thought of presenting. Now I volunteer to present to the client and was just told how well I present.

Also, Read your script out loud. You will notice what sounds natural or not.

Since you are at home, you can read directly from your script. Once you start getting use to it, you will feel more comfortable going off script. But don’t do that until you feel comfortable.

Make it easy to read too. You don’t want to lose your place in the middle of presenting.

If you are not even sure what to say. Write it out and then ask your partner or someone else to look it over to make sure it makes sense and if you are missing anything that is important.

I found out that our CCO writes out scripts for themselves too, for any presentation.

Oh and another thing, talk slow. Talking fast immediately makes you seem nervous.

One last thing, DON’T DRINK CAFFEINE the day of a presentation. I also use to take a shot of magnesium before a presentation that literally calmed me down.

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I have my computer in front of me. Thankfully we do it sitting down so it looks natural. I have someone else present the deck because I say I have notes for myself that I need to see

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Recent IconRecent

Get training/mentorship from people who are great at pitching at your company or outside (reach out to people on LinkedIn). Ask them for tips - how they prepare, their go to mindset, etc.

It is a soft skill that you can learn

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Oddly enough, I’ve never been in a client presentation where I felt like I was blown away by the speaker. It’s always a lot of umms and ahhhs.

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I stopped caring and that’s helped a lot. Also taking note on how my CDs and GCDs present and try to emulate some things they do right.

likesmart

It helped me to stop memorizing the presentation. That’s like walking on a ridgetop: one misstep can throw you off. Instead, identify the mileposts/main points you need to pass to your destination and just make sure you pass those on your way.

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Lower the stakes. You get nervous about presenting because you think it matters. It doesn't. Brilliant presenters who are good enough to sell work that otherwise wouldn't sell are exceedingly rare. You're not one of them, but most aren't, and who cares. You're presenting to people who almost always are actually bad at their own jobs, have no idea what they're talking about, and suffer from their own insecurities. Remind yourself of that. See them as people who don't matter any more than a cashier who takes your order. We're all just bullshitting around so someone pays us. Also advertising is bullshit. Most of this shit doesn't work and is just burning money. Sell it anyway. Don't worry if they call bullshit, just call their points smart and go shit out something else. Who cares. Lower the stakes!

If they stress you out with questions, just fuck off. Say they have really good questions, and you'd want to circle back with the full team to make sure you get it right.

And consider you may have a generalized anxiety disorder that some medication may help. The right drug can make presenting anxiety vanish. But I think you can do this without it. Believe it or not, feeling anxious about this is mostly a choice. You have to chose not to.

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I was awful. I did my best to avoid presenting to clients, and let my partners do it. It really held me back. Then, I practiced when I presented to my CD and used that time as a way to get better. Eventually, I used the Steve Jobs approach. That was when I became really good. Look up Steve Jobs when he’s presenting new products on stage. He’s very concise and airs out each thought a bit - making the idea feel big and impactful. Good luck.

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Figure out why you think you suck at it/ what you’re afraid of. E.g.
- starting to ramble
- having to explain something you don’t understand
- strangers judging you
- looking like an idiot to people you respect
- etc.

It helped me to find out why. I got nervous bc I thought I sounded like an idiot/ imposter and each time there was a question I would black out and start babbling nonsense. I ended up presenting the work more internally and getting everyone’s buy-in so that if I got a tricky q someone would jump in. I asked for help. Was a lot easier in the office when I could strike looks of terror to my boss and he would hop in. I also started looking for holes in my own presentation ready to defend. And when I could feel my heart rate increasing I would obnoxiously start to talk slower and breathe til I felt like I was back in control. Plus I sat in so many of my boss’s meetings I started memorizing his phrases, transitions, open question reactions since he’s good at it. You have to find why you think you’re anxious about it and write out ways to tackle them— reminding yourself to not get anxious before a call won’t help so try to come up with steps! People are just people— paying attention to their dogs, their kids, embarrassed about their acne, looking for ways to impress their bosses with the work that you’re doing. I try to tell myself that I don’t need to prove myself bc my company already did the vetting process and they know my chops. Plus if your work is great, your team’s creative director should be able to help sell it, and the work should help sell itself. When you think about it, your presentation skills will almost never be a deciding factor if the clients are happy— your CD, the look of the presentation, how it fits the brief and who’s approved it, etc. will.

Hope that alleviates some pressure! Just what worked for me!

likehelpful

My CD told me the only thing keeping me from moving up was my presenting skill. I suffer from a stutter. It’s not totally noticeable, but it caused me to avoid public speaking most of my life. It’s not that I’m bad or terrified, it’s that I’m not seasoned if that makes sense.

Knowing the deck inside-out helps. Remember that people are seeing the slides. You don’t have to read them verbatim. Summarize stuff. Add in a few jokes to lighten the mood. I like to memorize the entire deck, then pretend I’m explaining it to a friend, but a bit more professional.

There’s a such thing as being too professional with the presentation. No one wants to hear someone drone on and speak like a politician - you’ll lose them.

Hope that helps. It helped me. I’m still working on avoiding rambling and speaking like a professor.

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☝🏼 excellent advice

I used to have massive anxiety while presenting too. It didn’t help to have bosses tell me to be more animated and over the top. Because that’s just not my personality. I realized that I needed to do 3 things. One, believe in the work I was selling so that I could get excited about presenting. Two, practice presenting at home so that the words will come, even when the nerves kick in. It’s saved me from stumbling so many times! And three, be yourself, not a car salesman version of you. Authenticity always wins and clients can smell it.

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You have to practice and be around other good presenters. Learn to slow down and say less. Usually when people are nervous, or bad at presenting, what they say is circuitous and unclear. They make the same points over and over, but in different ways. Best way to avoid this is to write out your talking points in advance, don't read the slides, and practice practice practice.

If you don't have a lot of good presenters around you, watch a lot of TED Talks and other highly rehearsed speakers. All those TED speakers aren't all just naturally great. There's a certain style and way that TED does their presentations, which is why they're all so good. Start with the most watched videos and then work your way through the rest.

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Just want to echo some of the other comments here:

It's good to realize going in that the audience is on your side. No one comes to a presentation hoping to watch someone fail. They want to be enlightened, provoked, intrigued, and they believe that you have answers to their needs.

Speak their language. Clients are interested in how you can help them. Frame the conversation around how your solution addresses their needs.

Practice, practice, practice. Go through your presentation, out loud. It is important to actually speak it out loud. It helps to build your memory about what the key messages you want to make on each slide. The goal is not to memorize the exact phrases you are going to use but just the main points you need to make.

Slow down. It's not a race. Clarity of thought is more important than speed.

Say what you believe, and believe what you say. It's not only what you say but how you say it. Speak with emotion. Passion. Concern. Understanding. People are more open to people who believe in what they are talking about.

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Best advice I got was to remember to be excited/enthusiastic. My GCD said, how is someone else going to be excited about the work if you’re not even excited about it. It helped a lot.
Another tip: train yourself to ignore silence. If no one says anything, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything is wrong- they are just waiting for you to continue.

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Just speak the truth with passion - don’t try to be anything you’re not. Just show your true creativity as that’s what the client can’t do and therefore wants to hear.
That was a turning point for me - I was trying to be what I perceived as ‘professional’ and ‘authoritative’ but it made me uncomfortable and self-conscious. Now I focus on telling a clear, passionate and succinct story - show what I’ve loved, be honest with what you think needs work, and I’m even starting to enjoy presenting now!

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Eventually I got more confidence from realizing none of it matters.

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Long time social anxiety and panic attack sufferer here. What helped me was having two decks. The first deck is for me to present. It's basically just bullet points/headlines and key visuals. The client watches this one on the screen but they'll never receive this version.

The second one is for the client to take with them for later reading, send up the chain or whatever. This one is expanded with all the details and stuff. The client does not get this deck until they're about to leave the building so they stay focused on me through the presentation (so frustrating when they start to read ahead or get stuck on something two pages/slides ago).

As the copywriter, I wrote both and know the content by heart. The stuff I cut out from the second deck becomes the stuff I embellish on while presenting the first, so I don't have to improv anything. But there's much less pressure to memorise and hit every point perfectly because if I miss something it'll all be in the deck they take with them anyway.

I don't know how common it is but everywhere I worked before only ever made one deck. It just seemed so awkward to me to either present a whole bloody novel without just reading it or give them what is essentially a pamphlet full of bullet points to take home. But having two decks has helped me a ton ever since. It's really not hard to write the detailed deck and cut it down for the presentation version.

like

Along with all the other great advice, I also took improv and stand-up comedy classes. These force you to get comfortable speaking in front of a crowd, help you with memorization, being comfortable hearing your own voice, stage presence, and thinking on the spot, which is helpful when clients shoot questions at you.

Take an improv class. Seriously.

If you have young kids, think of giving the entire presentation so they would understand it (it’s not easy). It helps you REALLY understand the core of the presentation and you realize how much fluff you can skip. Knowing the presentation at that level makes it much, much easier to do it well.

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