Your hands and legs are shaking, you are feeling anxious, and you’re starting to sweat…
Yes, that feeling before presenting in front of an audience. I have experienced this so many times that I have lost count. However, I am happy to say that now, even though I still feel a bit nervous before I speak (which is not a bad thing), I can now control my nerves and channel them into a better performance. Now I don’t just make presentations, I help others to make better presentations as well.
Let me tell you about my journey and the lessons that were key to my progress.
I used to be a broadcast journalist in Spain. Back there, in my comfort zone, on my home patch, my confidence was good. However, when I arrived in the UK and started working in professional communications in a second language, my confidence deserted me. I had to find a way to regain it, as my career – and making the most of the great opportunity I had in front of me – depended on it.
A colleague of mine used to say to me that preparation and practice were key. And it’s true! I started to prepare thoroughly before any presentation - and when I say thoroughly, I mean like I had never prepared before. I would spend hours rehearsing, going over the script, standing in front of the mirror and in front of my partner. You’re never wasting time if you use it to prepare.
One of the things those rehearsals helped me to control was my pace of delivery. I always used to speed up my speech when I was feeling anxious and, being Spanish, we speak fast anyway. I learned that reducing my pace of delivery not only allowed me to control my breathing and to think about what I was going to say next, it also changed the entire way I was coming across. Colleagues started to tell me I was more engaging and easier to follow and even warmer. It really makes a huge difference.
Since then, my boss has paid for me to have elocution classes. It sounds old-fashioned, but it has been so very valuable, as when I work with clients in English, I want to speak English like a native. I’m not there yet but I am getting there.
Apart from practicing and preparing for each presentation, I can’t emphasise enough the importance of learning from those around you, getting feedback and having supportive colleagues. In this respect I was very fortunate. I work every day with world-class communication professionals. I learn from them and they always support me. Without them I would not have been able to deal with the nerves and anxiety and make the progress that I have. They understood the journey I was on and were with me every step of the way.
My progress over the last two years has been very positive. The feeling I have now when giving a presentation is so different from a couple of years ago. But I will never stop looking for improvement. I’m searching for perfection and in this quest one rule stands out above the rest – practice, practice and practice some more.
Raquel Cruz and Cormac Smith bring significant experience in all aspects of strategic communication and public relations. Having worked across our organisation to develop our new product offerings, specifically aimed at the current challenges we all face, they will assemble and lead the strongest teams to address your issues. With our unique global network rest assured you will always be working with the best in the business.
Raquel is a communications and project management specialist. She will be coordinating the introduction of our new services and supporting clients in the management and delivery of their projects.
Since working for Baird’s CMC, Raquel has been involved in communications, research, and project management for clients including Roche, IFPMA, ViiV Healthcare, Angelini Pharma and Gavi, with accountability for everything from conception to successful completion.
Cormac is a highly experienced strategic communications specialist. He has been integral to the development of these new services and will be working closely with clients to understand their needs and develop solutions.
In a career spanning three decades Cormac has held a number of senior positions, including Deputy Director of Communications at the UK Cabinet Office, Strategic Communications Advisor to the Foreign Minister of Ukraine, and as Director of Communications for several UK local authorities.