YIKES! I Had A Wobble In The Boardroom

My client is a lovely guy, he works in a global bank, he’s very senior and comes across as very confident (on the outside).

We have laughed about his board meetings and the different personalities and cultures he has to navigate on a daily basis.

I often help him with his speeches and pitches and he’s really made huge strides.

So on this occasion, we were sitting in a huge meeting room with a nice view and biscuits on the ‘client floor’ watching his speech rehearsal back on my camera when he admitted to me something he’s never uttered to anyone before,

“Esther. I had a wobble in the boardroom,” he whispered.

I could see he felt like a failure. But he was willing to share.

“I’m feeling less confident as I get more senior, there’s more at stake and I feel a huge amount of pressure to perform so I prepare and prepare and … well, last time it didn’t pay off… I had a WOBBLE!”

He wasn’t happy.

He choked when the questions came thick and fast, interrupting his perfectly prepared flow, he froze, he um’ed, he er’d and couldn’t find the words to express himself.

Basically it was a horror show and now he’s hugely embarrassed.

I shared not only that the best of us will WOBBLE sometimes, but that he will be able to come back from this just fine. (More on this in a minute.)

This WOBBLY STUFF may sound familiar to you, it certainly does to me and and most of my clients. CEOs and COOs often confide in me that they get the jitters round the boardroom table. Even when they have done it a million times like my client.

Famous presenters at the BBC used to have a wobble before they went on air, it’s normal.

You know the signs:

  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Too many slides with no flow or story
  • Not relaxed at all
  • No small talk – or laughing!
  • Not at ease at all (being awkward isn’t good for credibility)

What happened to my client is a text book case of the WOBBLES.

The good news is this! You can learn from this and not make the same mistake many talented professional people make every day - and you can also recover if you’ve had a wobbly meeting or pitch.

When we got to the bottom of “the wobble” of my client, it turned out what he THINKS he needs to present isn’t actually what the board NEEDS him to present.

What they need is for him to be relaxed and effortless to reassure them that he’s a strong and trustworthy leader. He needs to put them at ease.

Here are the tips I gave my client. He’s used them very successfully since and ‘nailed it’. Hooray! They’re guaranteed to help you too…

My Triple A Formula Tips For Ease and Impact!

A – Audience – put their needs first!

Think long and hard about what they ACTUALLY need to hear – do they want your info quick and pithy? Or are they devils for detail?

A – Authentic – be yourself! Bring yourself to the party (with ease and confidence)

Don’t spend your time practicing lines, take your time thinking about what your interpretation of the facts are. What’s your opinion? What does it mean for the future? What do you really think? Be truthful. Yes, be yourself!

A – Awesome – Yes be a little bit awesome!

Look confident! Practice the power pose! Stand up straight or if you’re sitting, make sure you ooze confidence by smiling and giving plenty of eye contact.

You may think that ‘putting on’ a face is ‘not you’. Well, it probably is you in a more relaxed situation and that’s what your audience (big or small) need to see.

I urged my client to do this.

“Bring more of you at the pub into the boardroom; the relaxed, off the cuff, effortlessly confident smiling you. The you with free flowing opinions and engaging stories.”

He laughed and said, “The PUB me? OK – I can do that!”

So next time you feel you might have a wobble in front of senior people – don’t panic, keep it simple and stick to the Triple A Formula.

Psst. Please do share your coping strategies with me.

I love hearing your stories about when you’ve succeeded and failed in meetings, major presentations and speeches. What worked for you? When did it all go wrong? And most importantly – what did you learn?

Esther Stanhope