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Dealing With Presentation Fears

by Tony Roe on November 16th, 2010
Tony Blair takes prime minister's questions for the final time

Tony Blair takes prime minister's questions for the final time

When we look at some people making presentations or at interviews we assume that they are naturals when it comes to thinking on their feet, answering difficult questions and maintaining their calm. 

It is interesting to read the piece on Prime Ministers Questions in his recent biography – Tony Blair; A Journey,     as it provides us with another perspective on the preparation required to consistently perform at this level. 

He states that “Prime Ministers Questions was the most nerve-wracking, discombobulating, nail-biting, bowel-moving, terror-inspiring, courage-draining experience” in his entire prime ministerial life.

How did he deal with his fears?

His first move was to reduce the frequency of the PMQ’s from twice per week, 15 minutes each, to one weekly period of half an hour.

This resulted in a significant saving in energy and preparation time for Blair, meaning he could devote more of his time to other matters.

Whilst this is often not an option for us in a work situation, it is still worth asking the question if we can make changes to the timing of an event to make it more suited to our needs and style.

He also made sure that he had sufficient sleep the night before, a good breakfast and just before the session ate a banana to keep his energy levels up. 

However, key to him performing well was that he faced up to his fear; the fear of being made to look a fool or being outwitted.

He decided that he needed to master the strategy of the debate and ensure he was fully versed with the facts and answers.

His preparation started the night before the PMQ, where he studied a list of answers to potential questions and understood the complex facts.

By the start of business the next morning he would have a good feel for the likely areas of questioning and would continue to work on his debating lines. 

It is encouraging that someone we would recognise as a polished performer devoted so much time to preparing for a routine weekly event and it reminds us that we can overcome presentation and interviewing fears with focussed preparation.

As the great South African golfer Gary Player said: “the more I practice the luckier I get”.

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