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Get back in the room with confidence


Noun / verb. Informal.

Abbreviation for ‘Fear Of Face-to-Face’. An unpleasant emotion or thought that you have when you are frightened or worried by a request for a face-to-face client meeting, presentation or talk after months of comfortably presenting online. 

  • I need some help to get over this FOFF. 
  • Stop FOFF-ing about and get back in the room.

Yes, yes, I made up the abbreviation, but I kind of like it, and here’s why. Over the course of this last year, new challenges have arisen with regards to pitching and presenting. For many of us, presenting online has become the norm; notes to one side of the computer screen, smart shirt, pyjama bottoms, a slick of lippy. Good to go. Comfortable and cosy.

But what happens when you’re suddenly asked to present face-to-face, sit on a live panel debate or deliver a talk to hundreds at a conference?

This is when FOFF starts to rear its ugly head. Blind panic sets in, we grapple around for any possible excuse to avoid the face-to-face presentation (tube strike, train strike, teachers strike, sudden illness?!) and in doing so hold ourselves back in our careers.

I’ve been approached by dozens of clients over the past few months who are terrified (and I don’t use that word lightly) of getting back in the room; of delivering a presentation face-to-face, whether it’s to one person or to hundreds.

“What do I do with my hands?”

“How do I stand and deliver my presentation without my laptop in front of me?”

“What if my mind goes blank?”

These are all common concerns, and it might be comforting to know that apparently 75% of us suffer from this type of anxiety.

But although you’re not alone, there’s no doubt that Fear Of Face-to-Face can have devastating side effects; a shaky voice or trembling hands, coming out in a violent red rash or feeling dizzy and nauseous, not to mention the horror of total brain freeze. All of which result in far too much FOFF-ing about and complete avoidance of any kind of face-to-face public speaking at all.

The good news is that every single one of us can learn to minimise the FOFF anxiety and its side effects. It’s all about understanding how to be comfortable in front of an audience of any size and how you can make an impact on them.

Try these three tips to get you started:

1. Present what your audience needs to hear.

When we really need to impress we fall into the trap of preparing like crazy, researching everything we possibly can on the topic we’re presenting on, attempting to know everything about everything and demonstrating this with slides and slides of clever visuals and fancy graphs. We think that’s the way to impress and wow our audience. But is this what your audience really needs?

Always prepare with your audience in mind. The only reason to give a presentation is to make an audience think, feel or do something differently. The presentation is for their benefit, not yours, and if you can make sure your message is right for them, they’ll buy into your thinking, stay engaged and love you for it. So don’t present what you want to say – present what your audience needs to hear.

2. Remember that the audience is on your side.

Turn your focus outwards and remember that the audience aren’t the enemy waiting for you to fail. They want you to succeed so that everyone in the room, including you, can have a good time.

Putting your attention out onto others will help you feel more connected and social. If you’re waiting to go on stage before a big presentation, or waiting to enter the pitch room, try to make eye contact with a few people and smile at them. This helps to get your nervous system into social engagement and out of fight or flight mode. Then you should be able to deliver your presentation without looking like a rabbit in the headlights and there’s a far greater chance you can relax and enjoy it!

3. Turn worry into strategy.

It’s not unusual to get stuck in that fearful ‘what if’ mode before a big face-to-face presentation. You find yourself worrying about everything:

“What if I sound like an idiot?”

“What if they hate me?”

“What if I fall over?”

“What if my voice wobbles?”

The list is endless. One way to get yourself out of this ‘what if’ mode is to turn worry into strategy. Simply get a blank sheet of paper and on the left-hand side write down your list of ‘what ifs’. On the right-hand side write down your strategy. It will help put your mind at rest, enable you to feel more confident and to have real poise under pressure.

About: Catherine Allison

Catherine provides bespoke presentation and communication skills training to help agencies win more business.

She firmly believes that the way we present ourselves in business can hugely influence people’s impressions of us as individuals and significantly alter perceptions of an agency overall. As a trained actress, Catherine has combined her knowledge of acting with her 20 years agency experience (in client services and business development roles) to develop and lead presentation and communication skills training sessions specifically for those working in an agency environment.

Catherine is the Founder and Director of Master the Art and an accredited DBA Expert.


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