Overcoming Nervousness when Interviewing and Presenting

When I first started my career doing phone and in-person interviews – and then presenting research findings – I couldn’t imagine getting through them without feeling completely awkward, nervous, unsure… pick your word… but can now attest to age-old wisdom that practice only makes for improvement.

I would like to share three tactics I take to overcome jitters that naturally occur when conducting formal qualitative interviews and presenting research results to executives and management teams:

  1. Prepare ahead of time: Everyone knows you need to be prepared when it’s your profession to talk to people… but to what degree? I advocate for preparedness to the greatest degree possible; especially when presenting research results to an audience that knows their own clients/prospects better than anyone on earth. As a presenter, I treat every bullet-point in a slide deck as if the CEO of the company I’m presenting is going to ask me to explain it to him or her; and as Einstein once said: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” 
  2. Review afterwards: As a best practice, I record every Zoom interview, presentation, and afterward, I listen back to it. Not out of vanity, but the exact opposite reason. Hearing yourself speak brings humility, insight, and a comfort-level with one’s own presentation style which may have gone unnoticed before listening
  3. Practice not saying “Um” and “Uh”: By far the most challenging thing I had to overcome (especially as a presenter) was to quit the bad habit of using filler words. It was the most humbling experience of my entire career once I realized just how often I was “Um’ing” and “Uh’ing” through every sentence. Even after years of intentional practice to not use fillers, they still slip in, but at least they are controlled to a point that they don’t distract from the message or lower its quality

I want to know if there are any interviewers/presenters out there doing these same things. What is the hardest part of talking for a profession, and how do you avoid the jitters? Leave a note on LinkedIn to share your own tips and tricks on the subject.

-Lee Sumner, Research Director