By Jeff Bowman
It has happened to all of us. That uncomfortable feeling, being exposed, nothing to hide behind, caught unprepared. We can feel the embarrassment making our faces red, we search for a cover, but there is nothing there. We have no choice but to stand there, naked, and open to public opinion.
Who has seen you naked?
I’m not talking about the step out of the shower, not a stitch on, surprise! kind of naked, I’m talking about the awkward moments when we are caught with our guard down, unprepared to answer questions posed to us, presenting to a large group and having holes poked in the slide show by those who relish seeing an uncomfortable expression creep across our face. It’s almost like cheap thrill some get by watching people fail on reality T.V. or on a YouTube video.
I recently raided my business partner’s bookshelf for some light business reading. I chose a book which was written in 1992, an eternity ago. The book “I Can See You Naked” by Ron Hoff is a humorous look at the skills required to make highly successful presentations.
You’ve heard the expression “think of your audience being naked as you present” to make you less nervous, well my question was, what if you are presenting at a nudist convention? Hoff comes to the conclusion that speaking to a naked audience would certainly make eye contact essential, as well as make you feel rather overdressed. The fact is, it would be very distracting to say the least.
I apply this same thinking to the feeling we get when, as professional business people who pride ourselves on our knowledge and abilities, we experience that temporary “brain fart”, memory blip, the “Lost in Space” moment that leaves us stuttering and stammering searching for some kind of voice in our head to provide us with an answer. That is the moment when we are being seen naked by someone else. Sometimes we can recover quickly, and other times we just have to face the embarrassment.
It happens to everyone, and if it hasn’t happened to you yet, I guarantee it will. The best way to handle it is to try and relax, think before you speak and pose your answer back in the form of a more clarifying question, which will give you a few valuable seconds to gain your composure, possibly provide you with more detail for the formulation of an answer and on the odd occasion, provide you with a bird’s eye view of a naked person who was unprepared for your desire for further clarification.