My presentation was so good in the bathroom…what happened?
It’s an old actor’s comment after flubbing an audition, “I was so good in the bathroom at home…”
Has that happened to you? You felt prepared, your research was done, your key points were solid in your brain, and you did your relaxation exercises; so, why in the world did your confidence drop in mid-speech?
I know that feeling, too, and in that moment you might as well be standing there naked as a jaybird because the embarrassment and vulnerability that just washed over you like a tsunami feels like it could take you down right then and there. In fact, you might wish it to happen! Then you could be dramatically carried off stage by a strong handsome man who will be your future husband….
You carry yourself off to a corner and wonder what went wrong.
Let’s look at a few reasons for Vanishing Confidence Syndrome:
First, I invite you to look at the situation as though your confidence never left you, but something else temporarily blocked it. Like a thin wall, we can knock down the blockade; we just need to address its origin. So:
- Did you memorize too much? Knowing your key points is fine, and you can even have a cheat card in your hand in many cases to be sure that you hit them. Memorizing full sentences, though, and tag lines might be a recipe for disaster. The problem is that once you “lose your place” in your memorized script, you can be off-kilter immediately. It’s often hard to recover.
- Do you not trust yourself? Often I see experts that can rattle off information and factual statistics like crazy in a one-on-one conversation, but once the cameras are on, they hesitate and second-guess themselves. There could be a deep-rooted childhood experience that can cause this… perhaps a fear of reliving a bad public experience. Seeing a professional coach, or even a psychologist could be the key to freedom if that is the case. Once that old “story” is proved false in the now, you are free!
- Are you being a perfectionist? Sometimes this goes hand-in-hand with the situation above; do you find it hard to forgive yourself if you forget a point or stutter a bit? It helps to understand that to err is human, and to be perfect is, well, not possible. God is perfection, and last I checked He didn’t ask you or me to substitute for Him because we don’t qualify for the job. Give yourself a break, and realize that it is actually refreshing to see a speaker be authentic: So say, “I’m sorry, I could you repeat the question?” or “I can’t recall that number right now, but I’d love to get back to you in a bit!”
Most importantly, if you had a moment where your confidence left you high and dry, know that it does not have to happen again. The next experience could be the best one yet. The one after that fantastic, too!