discovering sources of inspiration
November 28, 2005 9:58 AM   Subscribe

I am preparing a critically important presentation whose outcome will decide my future for the next five years+. Sometimes I feel ready to take on the world, other times I feel useless. Where do you draw inspiration to rise up to the occasion? How do you get yourself pumped for those life-altering, work-related situations?
posted by Voyageman to Work & Money (19 answers total)
i don't know if this fits, but it was posted here yesterday and made me feel somewhat better - it's an artsy fartsy long winded "fuck 'em": gaping void
posted by andrew cooke at 10:09 AM on November 28, 2005

and good luck
posted by andrew cooke at 10:09 AM on November 28, 2005


I suppose you could go down to the local appliance store, look at the refrigerator boxes, and tell yourself "That's my home if I screw up."

Or stare into the mirror and recite:
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.
Whatever works...
posted by Marky at 10:29 AM on November 28, 2005

I'd say don't think about the huge implications of the presentation - that's kind of like looking down when you're on a tightwire. Instead, I like to bring to mind situations in the past where I came through and did a great job. Have those scenarios in mind when warming up to the presentation, and let those images substitute for scary images of times when you may have messed up.

Needless to say, do your prep work, rehearse, even practice giving the presentation to trusted colleagues and get feedback if that's something that has been helpful to you in the past.
posted by jasper411 at 10:49 AM on November 28, 2005

For me, caffeine plays a big role. I try to make sure to have one non-caffeinated day a week, and then get an espresso drink for really crucial days, like for a job interview or an executive-producer visit.
posted by nobody at 11:09 AM on November 28, 2005

I find that in many stressful situations, I get the absolute best performance when I successfully manage to not care about the result. It may be counter-intuitive, to be sure, but if you know what you need to do, have practiced and maintained the skills needed to do it, it's sort of a trick of staying out of your own way.

Obviously only you know the actual gravity of how things will work out one way or another, but I'd be reasonably comfortable placing a wager that even if the presentation goes south that you're not going to be injected with aggressive cancer cells after being run over by a bus. And on the flipside, when the presentation goes swimmingly and things work out well, you're still not likely to be whisked away to paradise to be attended by scores of extremely experienced nubile virgins (paradise can handle that kind of contradiction, because that's the kind of place it is).

So, strive for a calmer perspective on the actual outcome-stakes. Short-term difficulties may be higher one way than the other, but that's just life--there's no avoiding difficulties from time to time. Keep the goal in mind, to be sure, but the goal is actually "give the best presentation I'm capable of giving" and not the hoped-for result--that's only secondary, and will only get in your way. Keep it out of your way, and it becomes more likely.

Seems to work for me, anyway. Good luck!
posted by Drastic at 11:10 AM on November 28, 2005

I listen to music. I prefer something silly to something 'inspiring' like "Eye of the Tiger" or something else that sport teams warm up to. Personally, I'm partial to "The Mango Song" by Phish:
Your hands and feet are mangos
You're gonna be a genius anyway
The chorus just relaxes me in that picture-the-audience-in-their-underwear way.

Good luck.
posted by istewart at 11:28 AM on November 28, 2005

My advice: It's all about prep

1) Make sure the presentation is tight - rehearse it, and as dorky as talking to your office wall might feel the day before, it's going to make a big difference on the big day.

2) Own The Room - On the day of your presentation, you're the smartest guy in the room. Walk tall.

3) Test your equipment. No joke. I'm sure we've both sat in a room with some gimp who can't work their laptop. Don't be the gimp.

People freak out because they fear failure. The only people who fail are the uniformed and the unpolished. Therefore, if you do your homework, you can't fail.

Kick their asses.
posted by theinsectsarewaiting at 11:29 AM on November 28, 2005

Rehearse thoroughly, of course, but give yourself time off before hand. Go get lunch, have a walk in the park, hit the gym---do whatever you find relaxing. Give yourself enough time after your time-out to prepare and get ready, but not enough time to stress. You likely are going to be nervous going in, naturally, but a even short decompression period before makes a difference, I find.

In the same vein, a good sleep the night before is far more important than going over your presentation one more time.

Finally, if you're making a speech or similar, don't try to be letter-perfect. Use cues, notes or cards only to remind you of the points you want to cover. One of the most painful things to watch is someone reciting a prepared text. Aside from coming off like a robot, if you stumble, odds are that you'll get flustered. People remember hesitations far more than your actual words. Being more organic with your text also allows you the flexibility speed up or slow down you presentation as necessary.
posted by bonehead at 11:43 AM on November 28, 2005

Oh and the best of luck. Public-speaking is really hard, but exhillerating when you nail it.
posted by bonehead at 11:44 AM on November 28, 2005

I second and third the prep time. Once you are confident in your preperatory work, you will be relaxed and confident for the big day - In terms of getting "pumped up"?

Well get the 8 mile Soundtrack, and listen to Eminem on the track "Lose Yourself". That ought to do the trick!
posted by extrabox at 11:45 AM on November 28, 2005

As the previous poster intimated - prepare, prepare, prepare.
Regarding rehearsal: Do your entire presentation three (3) times in front of a live audience. Doesn't matter who they are (friends, relatives, etc), but it's best if the audience is larger than 2.
The number three is sorta magic, any less, and you won't know it as well as you should. Certainly you could do it more, but then you might start second-guessing yourself.
You'll be astounded how calm you'll feel after those rehearsals - because you know the material, you are now free to concentrate on other things.
Also remember your wardrobe: have everything you're going to wear in tip-top shape - shoes shined, shirt pressed, suit cleaned, etc. If you can, get a haircut and manicure a day or so ahead of time.
You can own the room if you look and act like you should own it - and you will if you're well-prepared.
Knock 'em dead!
posted by dbmcd at 11:47 AM on November 28, 2005

Only three things you need to do.....Rehearse, rehearse rehearse.
Here's a guideline we use in new business development. Works wonders;
1/3 of the time spent on creating the idea for the presentation
1/3 developing the presentation
1/3 rehearsing
Stick to the schedule. Oh yeah, and PowerPoint can and will get in the way.
They need to focus on you and what you have to say, not the screen.
And like dbmcd said, own the room. "It an't braggin' if you can do it."
posted by pman78 at 12:26 PM on November 28, 2005

You need to film a montage of you training in all sorts of ways... every movie needs a montage... [moontaage!]..

Seriously though - there's a lot of good advice here. I'd also draw on my previous experience with the following which rings true:

"even when not confident - feign confidence -- but not arrogance -- if you look confident, people respect you, and show that respect... and suddenly, since you're respected, you're confident.. and you're no longer faking it!"
posted by twiggy at 12:56 PM on November 28, 2005

Lotsa people saying it: PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!!

Literally practice your presentation over and over. Out loud, twenty+ times. The more you practice, the less nervous you will be.

Powerpoint, etc., can help, but keep the slides minimal -- five bullet-points per slide, maximum. They are like note cards, illustrating the major points; you fill in the details yourself.

Knock 'em dead!
posted by LordSludge at 3:12 PM on November 28, 2005

Oh, and one more thing - make sure your PowerPoint slides have less information on them than you are presenting. Nothing (and I mean nothing) is more boring than sitting through a "presentation" that is nothing more than the person reading everything that is written on the slides! Don't give away the farm on the presentation.
...did I mention rehearsing? Yes? Just checking.
posted by dbmcd at 3:44 PM on November 28, 2005

Powerpoint is evil . It makes you stupid.

Try not to get too much on you.
posted by bonehead at 4:00 PM on November 28, 2005

Don't think of it as "determining my fate for the next X years." You'll never get started, it's too big.

Break the task down into manageable parts that can be tackled individually. Today I will do THIS. Tomorrow I will do THAT.

And practice.
posted by frogan at 9:11 PM on November 28, 2005

And, hey, let us know how it goes...
posted by theinsectsarewaiting at 7:39 AM on November 29, 2005

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