AIBU to say I just can't do it (work/anxiety/presentation related)

(33 Posts)
Namechangingnorma Fri 26-Apr-13 22:22:50

Keeping this as brief as poss and have name changed due to being a little ashamed. I am 3 weeks into a new job, new company. I hold a relatively senior position in a relatively specialised area. It is going really well so far and my boss and the company directors seem happy with my performance.
As part of my normal job it is not required for me to present to large audiences, if it was I wouldn't have gone for it. i am really good at what I do but I have a total phobia in regards to presentations, way past normal scared, it induces full on panic attacks, have had to have large quantities of valium to do it in the past (did ok). In real life I come accross as terribly confident and togetherso no-one would really guess how I feel. My boss asked me a couple of days ago to stand in for her in a presentation in a weeks time that she can't attend. knowing what I need to present I assumed it would be 5-10 people around a table which I would be nervous about but could manage. However, I have been informed that it will be a very large audience and I have gone into meltdown. I am trying to establish what they mean by large but if they come back and say 20+ people I just don't think I can do it. AIBU to come clean to my boss?

Minshu Sat 27-Apr-13 08:40:39

Presumably you are paid senior role money, so should just get on with it. I don't mean to sound unsympathetic, but it's probably part and parcel of the job and this is an opportunity for you to develop the skill.

The purpose of a presentation is to impart information, so make sure you know the material and deliver in a conversational style. Ask questions of your audience - has anyone been involved in this before? what are your thoughts or questions? Can help by giving you a few seconds to breathe and takes the focus of you.

Good luck!

angelos02 Sat 27-Apr-13 08:26:50

Did you say it was a senior role? If so, I'd assume presentations were part & parcel of the job. When I earned just 20k, doing a presentation was sprung on me. Not overjoyed about it but couldn't say no.

ll31 Sat 27-Apr-13 08:18:06

I think I'd stop looking at jd as possible way out. If it's a senior role I think ability to make presentation would be assumed. Even if it's large group think about doing it sitting down or prepare and deliver it onvideo and play that .. Just come up with angle for doing it that way.good luck

Namechangingnorma Sat 27-Apr-13 00:03:46

maddening, that is exactly what I am trying to do, once I get an idea of numbers I will have a better idea of whether its a boardroom/round table thing which was what I had expected when I agreed to do it. i will get a gage of that on Mon and will take it from there. i am just so scared of looking shit in my new job and them regretting hiring me, I just re-read the JD and definitely no mention of presentations!

maddening Fri 26-Apr-13 23:54:19

could you present in a different format? Eg set it up more like a meeting?

Namechangingnorma Fri 26-Apr-13 23:45:06

Thanks Fresh!etitia I totally agree, it feel so unfair that being a confident public speaker is often the key to career progression when most presentations are boring and would be far more efficient done by web cast so people could watch in their own time (especially because I would have no problem with that :-))

FreshLeticia Fri 26-Apr-13 23:41:33

I have every sympathy OP, I have a highly thought of technical role in the civil service but I have after 12 years had to flatly refuse to do big presentations for medical reasons.
And no, it didn't get easier the more I did, it got worse, despite beta-blockers, CBT etc etc. even Prozac didn't chill me out enough.
Like you I have no problem with meetings, small groups and negotiation with difficult customers, but knowing how dull it often is having to sit through these big presentations, I wonder why the hell we still have them? Unless you are a talented speaker and lecturer then both you and the audience are not enjoying it.

Salmotrutta Fri 26-Apr-13 23:28:54

Well,if none of your colleagues will be there you could maybe at least ask them to be a practice audience?

Gather as many of them as you can and say "Look, I get nervous doing talks. Can you come and listen to me practise?"

It would help, really.

Salmotrutta Fri 26-Apr-13 23:26:32

Right, before becoming a teacher (and audiences don't come much worse than teenagers!!) I cut my presenting teeth on giving talks at seminars, department meetings, conferences and suchlike.

It was hellish at first - most people are nervous wrecks until they have stood up on their hind legs and presented several times - and the nerves never really leave. They just calm down a bit!

You are not alone, honestly.

The more you do it, the more you will be able to "visualise" a successful talk. And that will help you become more comfortable with the whole thing.

MagicHouse Fri 26-Apr-13 23:21:32

Then I think you should, at this point, be honest and say you can't do it, and why. If it's not part of your job description then it shouldn't be a problem. But definitely go for some counselling to try to get to the bottom of it.

Namechangingnorma Fri 26-Apr-13 23:20:44

No, none of my colleagues would be there, the presentation isn't written yet, needs to be done ealry next week

Namechangingnorma Fri 26-Apr-13 23:19:27

i think its added more pressure to be presneting the strategy of the company to another business when I am only 3 weeks in, But whatever the scenario I would be in bits, yes it is a senior position but I have always avoided going to the next level up where presenting would be essential because I just don't want to put myself through it, or can't.

Salmotrutta Fri 26-Apr-13 23:16:44

Would it help to gather a small group of work people (who you trust) to practice in front of, in a proper, formal setting?

Ask them if they will listen to you run through it a couple of times?

It might help you settle - and at least give you the opportunity to run through it? And practicing in front of an audience really does help.

Would any of your colleagues be in on the actual presentation - because they could be friendly faces for you to speak towards.

ElectricSheep Fri 26-Apr-13 23:13:26

I think you've got 2 choices here OP - either fess up and avoid all presentations like the plague or force yourself to do this one and then ask, yes, ask to do them as often as possible to break out of your phobia.

Just doing them occasionally to cover for someone is surely the worse of all worlds. You have my sympathy OP. I've actually turned down 2 otherwise great jobs this year because they included a lot of presentations. Like you I am confident in my abilities but just hate them with a vengeance. Although when I have done them they've gone well and I felt really proud of myself for getting through it. But it's exhausting making yourself do something that is so scary. Just decide not to think about it now. Give yourself an hour on Sunday morning to decide then forget it until Monday.

Have a relaxing weekend OP.

YANBU to get out of this one, but I think YABU to expect to get out of presenting forever, if you are a senior manager.

I have gained a lot from joining Toastmasters - a very friendly environment to learn good speaking skills. Do you have one near you?

Namechangingnorma Fri 26-Apr-13 23:12:22

thanks all, I will try some long term CBT I think, I have tried hypno as a quick fix, have been prescribed beta blockers and didn't find they helped unfortunately

efcmcr Fri 26-Apr-13 23:09:42

I know you said you've taken valium in the past, but I honestly think you'd be better speaking to your GP about beta blockers, they were prescribed to me for other reasons, but a side effect was that they remove any nervous tremor from your voice and allows you to speak clearly, which breaks the "i'm nervous/they know i'm nervous" cycle.

greenformica Fri 26-Apr-13 23:08:11

Try Andrew Johnson's public speaking meditation/app if you haven't already?

MagicHouse Fri 26-Apr-13 23:07:40

I had a couple of different types of counselling. Have you tried CBT - it stops the cycle of worry (if you get a good counsellor). Basically your thoughts spiral when you panic, but CBT trains you to step in and stop it at the start. The other counselling I had was psychotherapy - looking at your past, and how it has shaped you as an adult. I had one followed by the other (CBT last). Took years, but it worked!

Namechangingnorma Fri 26-Apr-13 23:02:27

i don't mean to sound arrogant, it's just i am trying to get accross it is a totally irrational phobia and not related to my ability to do my job I suppose, I have just felt tearful all day at the prospect and all I could think was 'my precious weekend is going to be ruined by worrying'

Namechangingnorma Fri 26-Apr-13 23:00:35

Magic, I am actually really confident in my ability to do my job and probably one of the most exoerienced in my field, it's not a lack of confidence in knowing what I am talking about, my body goes into full on fight opor flight mode and I am phobic about doing something to embarress myself infront of the audience.

Namechangingnorma Fri 26-Apr-13 22:58:13

Hi Specialist, yes I have had all the training, Its not that I don't know how to be engaging etc etc I am great (if i di say si myself) at charing meetings etc etc, its the stand up presentations that is a full on phobia!

MagicHouse Fri 26-Apr-13 22:56:08

What is it that really bothers you about presentations? Over the years, I think that for me it was thinking that I never had anything worthwhile to say, and that people would be judging me (ie self esteem/ self confidence). I think the reason I can do them now is because I finally believe I do know what I'm talking about! But it took about ten years and lots of panicking to get there!
I do know that where I work, admitting to people how I felt was the first step in getting over it. I found pretty much everyone was really supportive, and that actually most people hated presentations to some extent, which did help (though I do realise that a phobia is a very different thing.)

specialsubject Fri 26-Apr-13 22:53:36

no-one wants to see you fall on your arse - not your boss, not the audience and not you.

have you had proper training in how to present? I did and it made a big difference, although I didn't have a phobia. It will fix faults, show you what to do and what not to do and make you look gooooood.

anyway, ignoring this won't make it go away so book a meeting with the boss, explain the problem and say that without proper training and help you can't do this. Same as many other things.

Namechangingnorma Fri 26-Apr-13 22:49:55

Thanks Magic, I too have had a full blown panic attack, I just froze, it was a number of years ago now. Horrendous though. I have forced myself and been ok (with a lot of valium) I just don't seem to be able to get over it, I have invested a lot of time and money in trying. i so wish I could do it. I am going to try and further establish the set-up / audence etc on Mon and if it is full blown auditorium style I am just going to have to talk to my boss. I am so scared it's going to put me in a bad light though, I hate to show any weakness.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now