As the parent of a college-bound high school senior, I have done a fair share of college tours. On this particular fall day,  a young woman rushed to our waiting group and breathlessly began her spiel.  She was an intelligent and likable young woman and despite her tousled appearance (it was, after all only 9:30 on a Saturday morning) she knew her content.  But I noticed that she kept pulling her jacket collar up her neck.  Again and again.  It was distracting.  I stopped listening.  What is the problem here? I moved closer to take a look and – you guessed it – a hickey on her neck.  I felt badly for her. That’s embarrassing.

But honestly, I didn’t care  that much and I was ready to move on.  I wanted her to be present and connected to us, sharing her genuine experience of the college.  But she couldn’t, and so we spent the next hour watching her telegraph her self-consciousness. Happily, it wasn’t high stakes and I hope she learned a valuable lesson (wear a scarf?).

This story is a speaker’s cautionary tale. Ideally, you plan, rehearse, prepare, preview your space and everything goes swimmingly.  You accept that there will always be some imperfect glitch in the most perfect of presentations. If it’s in your control, you fix it. But if you can’t, then let it go and move on.  Since your audience will take their cue from your behavior, acknowledge it (to yourself, or the group, if appropriate) and then ignore it.  Focus on the people you are talking to, the message of your presentation and don’t undermine yourself.

How have you noticed yourself forecasting your concerns to your audience?

– Charlotte Dietz