Day 547: How to prepare for a presentation

Today, I’m presenting a proposal at work, with some ideas about how to make things better for:

  1. patients who might benefit from psychotherapy services* there,
  2.  my co-workers, and
  3. ME. 

Curiously enough, I didn’t have my typical  pre-presentation reactions, which usually include:

  1. Procrastinating,
  2. Obsessing, and
  3. Freaking out 

…. in a variety of ways.

I really enjoyed not having those reactions. And I guess I didn’t need them, because today I feel ready to present.

Now, it’s possible that, without my usual presentation preparation techniques, I will suck today.  I guess that’s always possible, with or without those old presentation preparation techniques.

Not doing those things, though, was SO enjoyable, that I would like to continue to not do them.  I figured this post could be a helpful reminder for myself (and others) in the future.

However, is this post really living up to its title?  Am I explaining, in a helpful way, how to prepare for a presentation?

Well, I believe I am helpfully proposing that people NOT

  1. Procrastinate,
  2. Obsess, and/or
  3. Freak out

…. in a variety of ways, when preparing for a presentation (or perhaps, preparing for anything else). And I do think that’s useful advice.

However, I think I can do a little bit better than that, before I end this post.  

What helped me, this time,  to remember to NOT do those things (which I’ve done, so many times before)?

Instead of picturing or otherwise focusing on images of possible failures, replace those with more helpful thoughts.

My mind is very good at conjuring up all sorts of ideas and pictures about how the presentation will go wrong and of people’s negative reactions.  In the therapy biz, we call these  cognitive distortions (specifically, fortune-telling, catastrophizing, and mind-reading). Do these kinds of thoughts help in preparing for a presentation?

What do you think?

My belief is that they don’t.  So, this time, I used some heavy-duty antidotes as a preventative measure — to inoculate myself before I could start worrying.

These antidotes included remembering my friend, Jeanette, on our trip to NYC this year (shown herehere, here, and here), saying to me:

I read your blog posts about your getting anxious about presentations.  When I read them, I thought, “WHAT?  WHY?”

… and Jeanette made a dismissive gesture and face, like she thought it was ABSURD that I would be nervous about such things. Jeanette let me know — with words, facial expressions, and other effective communications — her belief in my abilities to present.

So, this time, I consciously replaced my old, negative thoughts with Jeanette’s recent reactions.

Here’s Jeanette in NYC, not making the face I was imagining:


To prepare for my presentation, I used other helpful antidotes, like

  • taking space and time for myself to write the presentation, but only during work hours,
  • distracting myself with pleasurable activities** when I was not working on the presentation, and
  • “selfishly” focusing on what would make the presentation more useful, fun, productive, and natural for me.

And while all of those were great,  it was really Jeanette’s face, tone, and words — when she had such unadulterated, unquestioning faith in me — that constituted the most powerful cure.

However, what if I did NOT have Jeanette’s reaction to conjure up?  For decades, I haven’t had, at hand, such a fabulous antidote to my cognitive distortions about presentations.  

Well, in that case, I would have to work a little harder, to find a good replacement image for those old, negative thoughts. I might need to remember, and consciously picture, other affirming messages, to counteract my sometimes vivid fears.  And those positive pictures are there (even if they’re sometimes difficult to retrieve). 

Like this picture, which I saw on Sunday:


… or these, which were right there, yesterday:



If you look around, there are probably positive messages you could use, too.

Okay!  I’ve got to end this post, so I can leave for work and make a dynamic presentation.  

I’m game!  Aren’t I something?

Thanks to Jeanette, to people who prepare and/or present (despite fear or other obstacles), to positive messages (and messengers) everywhere, and to you — of course! — for presenting here, today.

* Also known as “behavioral health” services.

** I also distracted myself by focusing on my own mortality, but I might not recommend that, for everyone. Above all, respect those things that work for you.



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29 thoughts on “Day 547: How to prepare for a presentation

  1. yeseventhistoowillpass

    What a nice self-help post… Very good

  2. Good luck with today’s presentation. Not freaking out is a good thing.

  3. You ARE game Ann!
    I coach people on presenting. That is the most important thing. Getting into the right mindset. It varies from person to person.
    For me, I visualize my sweet nephew aged around 7 saying to me “You can do it Auntie Val” .
    Such love and absolute faith <3.
    I soak it up and take several deep breaths … and then I am game!

    Glad it went well 😉
    Val x

    • I loved soaking up the positiveness of this comment, Val, including your assuming that my presentation went well before it happened! It was helpful for me to visualize your face and this comment and — yes! — it all went well.

  4. Love this post — I too coach people on presenting and I always get them to write out the answer to the statement: “When I am in the zone, people will feel…”
    And then hold those ‘feelings’ as their constant throughout the preparation process.

    letting self doubt, worry, anxiety take over makes it all about me. Letting what happens when I’m in the zone be my compass keeps me focused on the purpose of my presentation.

    But then, I don’t have Jeanette’s reaction and face to conjure up! 🙂

    Congratulations on an amazing presentation today. Bet everyone felt inspired, energized and motivated to make change happen.

    • Louise! I read this comment in the morning, before I presented, and I used your suggestion of completing that sentence “when I’m in the zone, people will feel …” That was extremely helpful. Thank you so much!

  5. This is awesome; especially the positive messages pictures! I’ll bet you knocked your presentation right out of the park! I used to do several presentations a year as staff development for teachers. The school system would pay for several of us to take graduate classes, with the understanding that we would present the information learned to our colleagues on staff development days. I had to present in front of hundreds of other teachers. At first, it was terrifying, but after presenting a few times, I felt pretty confident–I also got a bunch of free grad hours and a stipend each time I presented, so that was very nice, too!

  6. Gene Phillips

    Good for you, Ann, for finding a way of dealing with an issue and sharing it. And what a wonderful friend Jeanette is. You are both lucky.

  7. You presented here quite well today, Ann. No sign of lack of preparation at all.

    You’ll sail through at work, if that’s any indication!

  8. Very helpful post Ann, you did it very good here, so wish you good luck today 😀

  9. I’m guessing the presentation went well? 😀
    Diana xo

  10. It’s amazing what a little support and positive reinforcement can do for our mental state! I bet your presentation was smooth as silk. I’ve been looking for a job for months and interviewing a lot, and I find myself coming home and second guessing everything I said, etc. I decided to keep reminding myself that I am presenting the authentic me, warts and all, which is exactly who I will be if/when they hire me. 🙂

    • It IS amazing what a difference positives can make, Jill. As I’m reading your comment, I’m realizing that I, also, presented the authentic me, wants/warts and all, during my presentation yesterday. And it went very well, indeed. Thanks for presenting the authentic you.

  11. Hi Ann, hope the presentation went well! 🙂

    I have a question regarding your profession and the care&support sector generally. Say, a voluntary/nonprofit organization is looking for guidance about their organizational development, their other internal processes, or perhaps how to make their care planning process more person-centered- who would they turn to? Are there consultants? Agencies? Is it a State/Government agency that will provide people for the organizations to give guidance? Would they be called Human Services Consultant? Associate?
    Thing is- on my side of the pond we call them consultants (in social care; healthcare; any other industry)- is the language the same for USA or do you use a different profession-name?

    If you could give me any insight- that would be great?

    Sorry, for all this text here on your blog- maybe I should have asked for your email address first. Mine is should you have a moment to reply my hopefully not too confusing question 🙂 Thanks in advance!

    • No need to apologize, at all. I appreciate your reading and these thoughts of yours. Here’s my response: (1) I don’t know what these people are called and (2) I’ve actually had thoughts about becoming one of these people, myself. So if we can figure this out together, that would be great!

      • Okay, I am actually currently doing some research into USA human services and even though I am coming across “consultants” alright, I am not seeing many of them (which is the opposite to what I have thought about USA market)- this is why I am guessing there has to be another keyword for these professionals. Anyhow, once I have a clearer picture I would be happy to share my knowledge with you.

      • That would be great. I’ll see what I can find out, also.

  12. Pingback: Day 548: Everyone does that. No need for shame. | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

  13. Best to you on your presentation Ann!

    BTW – My eyes totally zoomed in on the 2nd to last pic.
    Let’s go Red Sox! 😉

  14. Pingback: Day 2295: Reassuring | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

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