What’s your worst fear when presenting or communicating something in business - whether to clients, colleagues or important others?

  • You get your facts wrong and look unknowledgeable?
  • You stumble verbally and fluff your words and look unauthoritative?
  • You sound boring, banal or brusque and look well as unpalatable?
Understandably, it’s very easy, isn’t it, to get yourself into a lather and sometimes be so stressed about your presentation - no matter how small or large the audience - that you’re psychologically beaten before you begin in.

In practical terms, it’s like walking into your presentation with a sign that says..


Why put yourself and, for that matter, your audience through a painful psychological and even practical death by a thousand PowerPoint bullet points or some other business torture?

So how do you cope - in the moment - before and/or during a presentation to help you cope with the feeling that your business presentation is about to become a tragedy and not a triumph?

It’s a technique I call positive detachment.

Benjamin Zander, the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, has developed a simple and effective technique for when someone and/or something difficult, destabilising or even destructive happens that you can and should use.

When Zander’s musicians make a mistake, he teaches them not to give in to the voice of doubt or self-recrimination. Instead, he has instructed his students to say, ideally out loud, “How fascinating” whenever they make a mistake.

To Zander, this means throwing up one’s arms and exclaiming “How fascinating” at top volume. His point: Every setback is an opportunity to learn. Every setback represents a world of possibility.

“Education is not so much about the transference of information as the opening up of new categories,” Zander noted.

“When you are educated in that sense, you are actually walking in a different world. The question becomes: What are you going to do now?”

It’s a cool, calm and detached way of neutralising any potentially undermining upset or even trauma.

This very phrase encourages you to stand back from the bad thing that’s happened or is happening to you and look at it in a good way.

It’s fascinating because you’re focussing on seeing and learning something new from this, rather than being overawed or crushed by the event and/or the person.

It’s deceptively powerful and has a pronounced effect on how your conscious and subconscious mind process nasty people and situations.

So, when you’re now faced with a potentially challenging business or sales presentation, just think how fascinating you’re going to make it for your audience because of just two words…

How fascinating!

By Seán Brickell, founder of Life Impact Ltd