Do You Suffer From EBS? EBS is a terrible condition that can strike at any time. 

There are two types of EBS, and both are equally destructive. They can occur in the middle of our presentations but usually, they arise when we are asked a question.  

The first is Empty Brain Syndrome. This happens when you are asked a question and your brain goes into hibernation, and you struggle to even say your name let alone come up with an answer. The second is Exploding Brain Syndrome. Your brain enters hyperdrive throwing up thousands of iterations and you can’t choose an answer. 

Here are some tips to manage both types of EBS 

1. Prepare 

Whenever I work with a client to develop their presentation topic, I always do a  mind map. The goal of the mind map is to throw the net wide and look at their subject from all angles. You can then overlay an argument map to uncover any curly questions. This gives you a deeper understanding of your topic and increases your confidence. 

The second step is to then pull the net in. People often overestimate the amount of information they can get across in a short presentation. Remember, clarity is king.  Focusing on your objective and what is relevant to the audience will stop you getting overwhelmed and lost in the detail.  

2. Delay and defer 

When we are asked a question adrenaline kicks off our fight, flight and freeze response which leads to EBS. 

It’s ok to slow things down a little by following these steps 

1. Listen – to what is being said and to the meaning behind 

2. Clarify – Ask questions to get a better understanding of what they are  looking for 

3. Reflect – paraphrase the question back to them  

4. Answer the question  

And if you don’t know, reply with “I’m going to have to think about that/check my  data, can I get back to you this afternoon at 2 pm?” Your credibility will plateau when you don’t know, but if you get back to them when you promised it will take off again.

3. Think horses, not zebras 

Sometimes the obvious answer will suffice. Tell them what you do know. Often hesitancy is caused when we try and find the perfect reply. Start with “My  understanding is…” and share your thought process 

4. Structure your answers 

Having a structure can give us a starting and finishing point 

Think PREP  

– Point of view (what are your thoughts) 

– Reason (why you feel that way) 

– Example (share your experience) 

– Point of view (and that is why I think ‘x’) 

5. Ask for help from the audience.  

Smile and say:  

o “I have completely forgotten where I’m up to… What was I talking about?” o “You know I’m searching for the word… It’s on the tip of my tongue… What’s  that word when you take delight in other people’s misfortune?” 

One of the dramatic changes I have seen in presentation skills in the last 20 years is due to the rise of the TED talk. TED talks celebrate diversity and a conversational style of presenting. They encourage speakers to tell stories, be vulnerable and share their humanity.  

The goal is progress, not perfection and with time we all improve.

Sharon Ferrier
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All Good Presentations Start With a Confident Speaker

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