As we arrive at the month of February there are many who have been enthusiastically reacting to saying goodbye to January. It is just another month after all, and yet it comes with its own particular mindset, one that is often characterised by abstinence and loathing – embodied in the infamous milestone which is Blue Monday.

In the midst of the northern hemisphere winter, this has become synonymous in the UK with the term ‘the most depressing day of the year.’ What’s interesting about this day is the psychological effect it has on people. Just by reporting its existence seems to infect the populace with a concentrated dose of the January blues and give an excuse for feeling that way.

What’s even stranger is that this day only exists as a result of some cunning marketer’s plan to sell sunny holidays. The concept was invented in 2005 as a marketing ploy by the British satellite channel Sky Travel, supposedly based on a scientific equation. Sky Travel was history by 2010 but its memory lives on through a piece of pseudoscience that the media loves to keep spinning.

Tricks of the Mindset

Where am I going with this? Well, you could say it’s all in the mind, or particularly the mindset of a presentation and how it can affect one’s performance. For better or for worse we all ‘vibe’ off how we are feeling about things and this invariably filters into our presentation performance.

Some people naturally lack self confidence and this clearly impacts on how they perceive themselves and creates its own mindset. An extreme example of this is the condition known as imposter syndrome. The sense that you are not qualified to be ‘in the room’ is one which will affect 70 per cent of people at some time or the other according to the International Journal of Behavioural Science. It’s not just mere mortals that are prone to this psychological malady either with the likes of Neil Armstrong, Sheryl Sandberg and Maya Angelou.

The rhino takes the podium

However for some people, the problem is the opposite. By this I mean the speakers who brim with optimism and confidence but really shouldn’t. We have all encountered these types in our travels, the emperors with no clothes to speak of! They will gladly rattle off presentations in which they seem convinced of their own ability to fascinate while the audience looks back wondering how much longer this is going to last.

So is this a good thing? Certainly not for the audience, who will often seek out peers in the break to eke out a wince and maybe a veiled comment although human nature dictates that very few of these peers will have the courage (or perhaps the cruelty) to take the speaker to task for their less than fascinating material.

Perhaps this is why so many dull technical presentations continue to be rolled out, filled with  too much dry detail, data and jargon; they may screaming for mercy out in the cheap seats, but behind the podium all is dandy in the mind of the speaker who, as far as they are concerned, is delivering a rivetingly good listen!

Roll your eyes and gnash your teeth as you might when encountering those with such an uncanny sense of their own confidence, but they inhabit a mindset which shuts out doubt and carries them to places that more talented individuals fear to tread. In this respect, having skin as thick as a rhino (up to 5cm thick in case you were curious) has some merits when it comes to ignoring your flaws and inhabiting a mindset that allows you to take on all comers. And for that reason there is a lesson to be learned.