How not to die (on stage)

“What you’re asking us to do,” the engineers said, “won’t work.”

I was pushing them to spice their presentations with a few techniques, such as pausing, using bigger gestures, moving away from the podium.

“Not comfortable,” they said.

I know the feeling, so do you. It’s how you feel every time you leave your comfort zone to learn something new.

The other day, for example, I purchased a new camcorder for professional use. I didn’t want to buy it.

The old machine worked just fine, except it used DVDs, a difficulty for some clients. The new machine uses memory cards, an improvement.

Still, I was resistant. “My problem,” I told the Best Buy salesperson, “is that I really love the old machine. It’s like a friend.”

“I understand,” she said, as if she, too, often grieved for machines. “But I think you’ll be ok.”

Have you ever learned a new skill that didn’t, at first, feel uncomfortable? Remember your first bike ride? There you are, pedaling up the learning curve, feeling unnatural until, one day, you don’t.

Feeling unnatural is perfectly natural. And it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you, or your bike.

Same thing with presentation skills.

Pausing is effective, but feels strange. And then there’s the podium. Sometimes you can’t avoid it, but often you can.

Or can you?

“We can’t ever leave the podium,” the engineers said. “Or we’ll die.”

Well, ok, what they really said was that the podium had the microphone. And while they knew, theoretically, about wireless mics, they didn’t like the concept. Leaving the podium felt unsafe, like leaving your fortress in the midst of battle.


But you’ve got more chance of dying, or putting your audience to sleep, behind the podium than outside it.

Still, it doesn’t feel that way.

These days, my old camcorder sits at home, safely on the shelf. Sometimes I miss it. But I’m getting used to the new one, just as the engineers, I hope, are getting used to some new techniques.

That’s what learning requires.

Tip: Learning a new skill? Get comfortable with uncomfortable. And keep pedaling.

© Copyright 2015 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.

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