woman looking overwhelmed, wide-eyed and pressing palms to cheeks

Do you ever get emotional when presenting? Picture yourself in front of a Board of decision-makers, pleading approval for a project in which you desperately believe. Maybe you’re on a platform relaying personal details of your life for a fundraising event. It could be a meeting with your bank manager asking for a loan that you know is the life blood to the business you’ve worked hard to build that now rests on this decision. Whatever it is that you’re presenting is wracked with emotion, and if you don’t keep that emotion in check, it may come spilling out.

Showing some emotion is wonderful. In fact, it’s a strength. It speaks of passion and commitment. Emotion is what connects you to others in your life. It’s one of the very things that makes you human. It’s a good thing.

Like any good thing, too much is not so good.

When you’re presenting, whether it’s one on one or to a conference of hundreds, displaying too much emotion is awkward, uncomfortable, and difficult to witness. It makes you and your audience feel out of place. Think about the last time you felt yourself go over the top with emotion to the point that you burst forth in tears of sadness or utter frustration, and then that silence that followed. The seconds just crawl by. You find yourself thinking, “Oh boy, just let the earth open up and swallow me now!”. The tension hangs in the air, thick and oppressive. You can bet your audience is feeling it too.

In my session, “ABCs of Presentations”, we touch on lots of challenges and solutions in giving presentations. A question that often comes up is how to control emotions. When you feel yourself on the edge of control, when you know you’re about to lose it and say or do something so full of emotion that it will not serve you well, there’s three things you can do immediately to grab back control. Here’s another “ABC” you can use.


A – Adjust how you think
B – Breathe
C – Change your position

1) Adjust how you think.

Think of something that is void of emotion. I suggest something from nature that is calming, allows for your mind to focus and clear out, and makes room for calmness. Think daisies in a field. Or a fish tank. Or a tree with leaves waving in the breeze. Or a flake of snow falling gently to the earth. Or the beauty of a brilliantly cut diamond. Think of anything that puts your mind into a zen state of passive observation. You choose — and choose BEFORE your presentation, so you have the visual ready when you need it.

2) Breathe. 

Yup, sounds basic, doesn’t it? It is. And just as basic is the response of your body to hold your breath when you feel overwhelmed. Emotion increases your stress levels and physiologically, your body responds by releasing stress-inducing brain drugs and chemicals like cortisol and adrenalin. The antidote to these feel-stress drugs is oxygen. So stop for a moment, just a second or two, and take a deep and discreet breath. No one even needs to know you’re doing it.

3) Change your position.

Physically move. Change your position. Motion changes emotion. Let me repeat that — motion changes emotion. When you shift your physical state, it shifts your mental state. The very gesture of shifting your seating position, moving a bit or a lot, changes your perspective and helps you to transition to a different frame of mind. If you’re angry or frustrated beyond words, you could excuse yourself and politely leave the room for a moment. When you return, the world will look different to you. If you’re on stage or presenting in front of a group of any size, take a couple steps to the left or right, and then begin fresh with another point, or a controlled and eloquent summary that is not dripping in emotion.

Allowing emotion to control your communications doesn’t serve your purpose. 

Instead, too much emotion muddies your message. People will remember the emotion, not the message.Let’s be clear here — emotion in a presentation is good. We’re talking degree here, and too much. 

Displaying your emotion in the right amount adds value to your presentations. When you do so, you move the audience to a place of understanding, compassion and action. By showing your emotion versus being controlled by it, you demonstrate that you are very human, have faced difficulties and (here’s the key) have come out the other end. You give hope and leave your audience on an upbeat note.

If you find that it’s just too difficult to share yourself publicly without being swept away in a tidal wave of unstoppable emotion, then perhaps this story is not quite ready to be shared. The audience wants resolution, and the knowledge that you’ve found a solution to your challenge, and that’s what you deserve too. When you find that happy ending of some sort, and only then, bring that story and a degree of controllable emotion to your audience. And if, in telling that deeply personal experience, you find yourself near the precipice and about to slip over the edge of emotion — change the way you think, breathe and move, and you’ll change the way you communicate.

Remember, someone needs to hear your message.,

©MarionSpeaks originally published August 21, 2011,
updated August 25, 2020 Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Marion Grobb Finkelstein 


“Marion Grobb Finkelstein, Workplace Communication Consultant, travels across Canada to help business people and organizations communicate in the workplace to get better, faster, easier results. She can help you too. Marion@MarionSpeaks.com 289-969-7691  www.MarionSpeaks.com OPT-IN to Marion’s Workplace Communication Tips enews at www.marionspeaks.com



Want to boost your leadership, customer service, and team-building communication skills? 
Marion can help. Contact her to explore options including one-on-one or group coaching, or bring Marion to your organization or conference to present a program of your choice.
Marion Grobb Finkelstein (PHOTO CREDIT: Michelle Valberg)
Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Marion Grobb Finkelstein helps leaders use their natural communication strengths to build resilient teams that talk.

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