Performance Under Pressure… What Are YOU Really Made Of?

I just got back from speaking at a global educational conference – overall, the experience was incredible with amazing programs and powerful educational tracks. This was my 4th time attending as a presenter, yet I felt that I walked away from the conference having learned just as much as I had shared.

However, there was a bigger lesson afoot here at this conference that I could not have anticipated. During my own presentation, the projector used for my PowerPoint started flickering ominously before I even took the stage. Not a good sign.

presentationsNormally, I can give a presentation without slides, but since this session was all about online reputation management, it was even more important to have these visuals as well as access to the Internet to  illustrate the points that I was making during the talk.

And you know what?

That projector just about was my undoing.

But I  didn’t let it.

Talk about performance under pressure… about 200 people were in the room anticipating this presentation while the balky projector wobbled between a clear picture, a flickering one, and then to a completely black screen… and then back again. ((I am partially convinced there was a gremlin in there just teasing me, waiting to see how I handled it.))

The situation not being optimum for any kind of presentation, I decided to soldier ahead, and despite the fact that after 4 attempts to fix the projector, the same problem existed, yet I still managed to deliver my presentation.

But what I learned  that day is that even when our own worst nightmares come true, but we can and do come out on the other side alive and just fine.

Everyone in that room was there to learn and I connected to that energy. By staying grounded in the subject matter, I managed to deliver on the goods. It wasn’t perfect; I did lose my presenting rhythm when the techs were unplugging cables and scrambling practically around my legs as they replaced parts.

But I could tell that most people in the audience were with me the entire time and were engaged. Regardless of the wonky projector. And that truly helped me get through the experience.

The most powerful lesson I learned that day was that when we perform under pressure, we learn more about the stuff from which we are made. What can we handle? How do we handle it? How do we work through challenges that seem insurmountable and seemingly stand in the way of our achieving our desired outcomes?

Me? I found that laying in a little humor about the projector situation, asking for the audience’s forbearance, then pushing through to stay on topic helped me survive every presenter’s nightmare.  I’d often wondered how it would feel if the “worst” happened during a presentation that I had spent  a long time preparing for went due south.

But now I know.

Taking some of the fear out of the unknown also gives us strength to face future challenges. We have a better sense of self and can learn from how we handled previous situations.

That’s the powerful tool that learning can be. We find out what we are really made of!


Photo By Engjw [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons