• Jibran Ahmed
  • Published: 18 April 2019

Friday Reflections | Jibran Ahmed

I was incredibly shy as a child. That will be surprising to most people, but it’s true. I struggled to make friends in primary school, was afraid to ask for help and never had the courage to disagree with people, even if I believed I was right (some Partners probably wish that old me would come back!).

Overcoming shyness has been a conscious journey over the last 17 years, which started with a teacher who gave me the courage to voice my opinions and was further inspired by artists like Eminem, who found success despite being different. 

I still don’t consider myself a confident person. I had butterflies in my stomach before I went on stage at The Roundhouse and Money2020 last summer, I become obsessed with the details and want to control everything (slides, screens, audio - even my tea schedule!). To this day, I hate networking events and struggle to go over and introduce myself to new people. I’m still on a journey and am improving every day.

A few people have asked what my secret to be a “good” presenter is. The truth is that I don’t have a secret recipe or silver-bullet solution, but I thought I’d share some things I’ve learnt along the way that have given me more confidence.

Know your content. This is the biggest source of confidence. Knowing the content makes it easier to write a compelling speech, or answer questions effectively.

  • Have an opinion. Having a point to make and giving your audience something to take away gives you purpose. Purpose (a “why?”) is incredibly important for mental preparation and confidence
  • They’re all human. They all have flaws, just like you, but they all have empathy and compassion too. They will be forgiving of your mistakes and some of them will be supportive and appreciative of your efforts. The latter makes it worthwhile.
  • Fear is the biggest obstacle to progression, so don’t be afraid. Sounds simple. It really is. What’s the worst that can happen? Even if you embarrass yourself, people forget and move on.
  • Psychological preparation. Breathing and music are my go-to items. I take a couple of minutes to focus on slow breathing before I begin. Just before that, I listen to music that raises my energy and puts me in the right frame of mind. 
  • Be yourself. I can’t stress this enough. Don’t try to present like someone else or be someone you’re not, just be you. My confidence over the years has largely come from being comfortable with who I am and showing the audience the “real” me. 

My final piece of advice is to seek opportunities to try (and fail). I’ve messed up countless times, but had I not taken the opportunities, I wouldn’t have improved. Opportunities are everywhere: team brown-bag sessions, account townhalls, Associate Talent Programme events, the list goes on. 

Start in a safe place, kick fear to the curb and most importantly, just be you.