Being relaxed, conversational and confident while presenting to a group takes preparation.

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A beloved coaching client told me she is nervous and awkward talking in groups. She hates presenting.

She’s a senior manager at a large corporation. She’s ambitious and wants to move up in her organization. She has many years of presenting ahead of her.

She needs to figure this out.

“I was working on a deck with my vice president recently,” she told me. “He asked me whether I wanted to present it to the group. I’d had a hard week and it was just too much.”

“I told him no,” she said.

Turning down an opportunity to present your ideas is a career-limiting choice. And saying no to executive management offering this opportunity is also a career-limiting choice.

“We all get to make mistakes,” I reassured my client. “This may have been a mistake. You get to learn from this story so you can do it differently next time.” (Growth mindset concept borrowed with great appreciation from Carol Dweck’s “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.”)

My client told me that she would be working with her VP on the next presentation in a couple of weeks, and would have another opportunity to present to the team.

“Imagine you’ve just given this presentation,” I said. “And imagine you did a great job. Imagine you’re proud of yourself. You’d give yourself an A if you were in school. What is it about your presentation that you’re proud of?”

“Well, I guess I seemed confident,” she said, thinking out loud. “I spoke conversationally. My voice didn’t quaver. I was relaxed. I didn’t search for words. I was even funny; I made the group laugh.”

We enjoyed her pride in this future moment for a moment.

“If it matters, you prepare,” I told her. “Preparation can be a lot of work. Ready?”

I asked her to write out a script of her presentation. Word for word. And then memorize it. Videotape herself slowly and calmly reading the script, and listen to it while she’s driving, walking the dog, doing the dishes, falling asleep. Listen to it over and over and over.

“Get to the point where you can recite the script to a camera and not hear a quaver in your voice,” I tell her. “Get to the point where you are profoundly bored of the script. You up for this?”

She was dubious. She already had a huge workload. This was going to be a lot of work.

“If it matters, you prepare,” I repeated to her. “There is no magic wand for confidence. Just preparation.”

A couple of weeks later I got an email from this client.

Subject line: I got an A!