Magical Mistake photo of Kirsty van den Bulk throwing her hair backwards; she is wearing a red top and has a tripod with a camera in front of her. Kirsty van den bulk is white, 50's and has blonde hair.

Embracing Magical Mistakes: A Journey through Nervous Presentations

As humans, we are bound to make mistakes. It is inevitable, and making mistakes is integral to our learning process.

I like to call them ‘Magical Mistakes’ instead of mistakes! Even the most experienced and accomplished individuals are not immune to the gripping clutches of anxiety and the weight of expectation. This is especially true in public speaking, where the stakes are high, and the audience is often distinguished and knowledgeable.

As a communication consultant and coach, I rarely feel nervous before speaking in public. However, I tend to worry afterwards and sometimes experience trembling as I release the tension I’ve been holding onto. Recently, I had an experience that reminded me of the power of nerves and how magical mistakes can transform us.

Despite my background as an actor and communication expert, I faced a daunting challenge while presenting to the distinguished general assembly on the OCEAN project. I was overwhelmed by nerves and felt their debilitating effects.

I was invited to present about the project’s execution of the DECP, which stands for Dissemination, Exploitation, and Communication Plan. The OCEAN project is an EU Horizon 22 funding programme and aims to improve navigation safety, prevent whale strikes, and track lost containers at sea, all focusing on human-centred design.

The stakes were high as I presented about communication and marketing to esteemed PhDs and European funders who attended remotely.

As the event drew closer, a familiar sense of unease settled in my stomach, heralding the impending challenge. Physical manifestations of stress, such as headaches, brain fog and a stinking cold, coupled with pervasive thoughts of inadequacy, sought to undermine my confidence.

Despite the reservoir of experience at my disposal, the unrelenting nerves were an unmistakable indicator that this presentation bore significant weight. I cared deeply about the project and The Nautical Institute team I represented.

“You were brilliant and made our team proud!

~ David Patraiko
I am happy to say that I made my team proud. It has been over three years since I represented a company for a presentation, and this was a great reminder of the differences between running your own business and speaking about your own story and experience compared to presenting while representing your company.

It’s a subtle difference, but it’s one that I keep in mind when coaching my clients, and it’s often overlooked.

Navigating the turbulent waters of the presentation, I delved into multifaceted facets of the OCEAN project. From thorough explorations of dissemination and communication strategies to the careful overhaul of the brand guide and website, I ran analytical reports to present as close to real-time data as possible.

I sought to engage even the most intellectual minds in the room. A particular challenge lay in coaxing human-centred design professors to simplify their language and step into the audience’s shoes, heightening the task’s daunting nature. I was petrified.

As if the burden of nerves weren’t enough, the technical realm threw a curveball. The microphone headset faltered, the hand microphone made its rounds, and the clicker became an unexpected adversary.

Undeterred, I forged ahead, ensuring the content remained a paragon of flawlessness despite these technical hiccups.

During a presentation, I mistakenly used the term “Short and Long Tailwinds” instead of the correct words “Short Tail and Long Tail SEO”. When I realised my mistake, I felt embarrassed as “tailwinds” have a specific meaning in coding language.

Magical Mistakes with SEO, SEO image listing what types of SEO, keywords, blog post content, and HTML all in different coloured circles. The blog article talks about a magical mistake when presenting.
As soon as I realised this, I sent a text message acknowledging the error, edited the presentation and handout, and addressed the mistake at breakfast. To my relief, everyone was kind and understanding, and they accepted my magical mistake.

Despite the myriad challenges and the infusion of magical mistakes, the presentation resonated positively with the audience. My passion for content marketing transcended the technical glitches and nervous pitfalls.

The toll on my body post-presentation was undeniable, yet the experience became a poignant lesson in the profound impact of acknowledging and accepting nervousness. Making mistakes is a natural part of life; we must learn to accept and embrace them.

Embracing Mistakes

Mistakes should not be feared but welcomed as opportunities for personal growth and evolution. Acknowledging and accepting nervousness is the key to success since it helps harness vulnerability for authentic connections.

Embracing magical mistakes adds humour to our journey and transforms challenges into opportunities for personal growth and genuine harmony. As a communication consultant and coach, I’ve learned that the most effective way to connect with others is through authenticity, honesty, and real-life experiences.

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