“How to Cope with Presentation Anxiety,” an essay chock-full of helpful advice from James Lang, recently appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education (Sept. 28th online).
Unfortunately, it omits the most crucial piece of information that professors suffering from academic stage fright need to know: NO ONE IS LISTENING TO YOU.
Consider the typical panel session at an annual conference. Researchers have found that approximately 87% of all audience members are preoccupied with one or more of the following concerns throughout the entire session:
“Where should I go to dinner tonight?”
“Whom should I invite to go with me to dinner tonight?”
“Why hasn’t anyone invited me to go to dinner with them tonight?”
“Where’s the location of the session I’m attending after this one?”
“Holy crap! Did I leave my cell phone in the restroom?”
“Why isn’t my book being prominently displayed by the publisher in the exhibition hall? Those bastards!”
“Dammit, I forgot to get a receipt at lunch. There goes the reimbursement for my cheeseburger.”
“Why do they keep the meeting rooms so cold?”
“Why do they keep the meeting rooms so hot?”
“Could that really be a pimple I feel coming up on my chin? For the love of God, I’m 52 years old!”
“The tote bags they give us at registration keep getting cheaper every year.”
“OK, who’s the dipwad wearing Axe Banana/Turkey Body Spray?”
“Is there going to be anything worth bidding on at tonight’s Silent Auction? No way I’m paying $75 for another necklace made of shellacked guano pebbles.”
“Why did Edelson ignore me when I waved to him in the hallway after the plenary address? We were in grad school together. I’ll bet it’s because he’s at Cornell now and I’m at a community college. I knew from the beginning that he was a status-seeking son of a bitch.”
“I can’t believe they charge $8.75 for a package of four undersized Oreos from my room’s mini-bar. Marx was right; he’s always been right.”
“Let me just close my eyes for a minute. I won’t fall…”
Moral of the Story:
When it comes to making public presentations, you can relax.
It’s not about you.
It never has been.