Right on the edge of useful

Worst Presentation Moment

Posted Monday, August 21, 2006 10:20:17 PM by Joseph Balderson

Joseph Balderson

Looking over the Top 10 Worst Presentation Moments on some Microsoft blog, brings back memories... reminding me of a Worst Presentation Moment of mine. Boy was it a doozy.

It's the early 90's, and back then I was big into space advocacy, because it seemed like the next best thing to being an astronaut aboard the Space Shuttle. I'm 21, and doing a major presentation of the latest findings of some unmanned spacecraft, I forget the name now, on behalf of the Mars Society, York University Chapter in Toronto. My co-presenter was a recent astrophysics graduate or something. I've got no university degree, no formal scientific training, but being self taught, what I lacked in education I made up for in enthusiasm as a volunteer for the society, so they gave me a prime presenting spot. Now I knew I could do it, because at the time I managed a small sales force selling security services door-to-door, so I was not shy in front of people, even if it was my first big presentation of this kind.

In the audience were physicists, teachers, students, astronomers, financial supporters for the society, and a few deans of the university. And they were all waiting for the latest juicy scientific details, because we got our info straight from JPL in Pasadena (this was before the internet, so you had to either subscribe to a journal or go to a lecture to get the latest news on this kind of stuff).

I got up to present, confident in my ability to deliver a presentation I knew by heart. But I had spent so much time the previous night absorbing the material, getting all the scientific details down, so nervous about the presentation, that I got almost no sleep. And the next evening, I was so hyped up on coffee and nerves, all that came out of my mouth was:

uh... ummm... and this is the ummm... uhhh...

My mind went completely blank. Three weeks of straight astronomy research completely down the tubes. I froze. I even got heckled to get off the stage by the sixth slide or so.

It was THE most embarrassing moment in my life. I so crashed and burned...

Luckily my colleagues sitting in the front row took pity on me and someone relieved me and did an impromptu presentation in my place, to this day I don't remember who it was, maybe the chapter president.

Prior to this I was involved in the society in a big way, and did a lot of volunteering with them. My embarrassment after that incident was so total that next month I resigned from the society's activities and never went back to a single meeting.

The good thing that came out of it was, I realized years later, I got over my fear of public speaking, for good. To this day I have absolutely ZERO fear of speaking in public, because I know, no matter how badly I screw up, nothing could be anywhere near as bad as that presentation.

What I learned is that no amount of preparation will ever make up for a good night's sleep. And until you screw up real bad, at least once, you never get any good at public speaking.

; )

Category tags: Blogs and Blogging, Education, On the Personal Side, This and That