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I got to present to management once but I didn’t do well. How do I overcome the negative impression?


I got to present to management once but I didn’t do well. How do I overcome the negative impression?

Signed, Anonymous


Dear anonymous

First off, it’s great that you got to present.  Whether it was by ‘forced’ or you wanted to – learning to present and convey thoughts is a hugely important communication skill.  Managers and leaders (and those who want to be leaders) always have to practice this skill, so you are not alone.

This general topic will also be covered in other posts in a series, but here are some tips you can use to improve your presentation skills:

  1. Ask for Feedback.  Talk to you managers and others in the room to give you feedback.  Set up 30 minutes to talk with them and listen carefully and write notes – try and get specific reasons why you may have failed (i.e.: maybe content was wrong; analysis was faulty; poor business judgment; failure to connect evidence to a conclusion, or stylistic problems).  Don’t be defensive.  Create a list of items that you think you can work on (i.e.: removing filler words like ‘uh’, ‘ah’; or being more organized; or speaking slower, etc.).
  2. Once you get feedback; you need to work on getting a 2nd chance with your boss.  Your boss hopefully wants to help you and see you succeed.  (If he or she doesn’t, then that’s a separate post on why maybe this boss isn’t working out for you).
  3. Remember that everyone has their own style.  You aren’t trying to be Barack Obama or Oprah.  You need to develop your own style and comfort, and realize that some people’s advice may not jive with your style, and that’s ok.
  4. It will take time to develop your own ‘style’ (you may not even know what ‘style’ it is) – but with practice, you’ll figure out what works for you.
  5. Always remember your audience – a professional presentation will be different than a local community group.


  1. Keep Practicing.  The only way to get better is to keep presenting.  You may not get professional work opportunities as much, so try different groups.  Look at Toastmasters (a group where people learn/practice public speaking), or other MeetUp groups.  Get involved in community groups where you can run for office or be on a Board – you’ll get the chance to give advice or present in small settings.  All of this will make you more comfortable for the next work related presentation.


  1. Let Others Know.  Let others know that you are doing this practice work (including your boss).  If people don’t know, they may only remember that first bad experience you had.  Tell your boss casually that you are working on this skill – she or he will be impressed and may find other opportunities for you to present.