I am a fashion designer working in the US. I came from Asia last year, luckily got a job in the US.

At work, I always need to explain my work during the design meeting, I have difficult time to explain my work to senior levels. Even though I spent so much time to prepare it,( I sometimes make a script and memorize it.) But once meeting starts, I feel nervous and I forget most of things that I prepared. Also if somebody ask questions about my work, I never be able to answer promptly.

English is not my first language(It could be a reason),but I think that I have more problems to deliver my ideas to others than just lack of the language skill.

Is there any ways to solve my problems? My works haven't been selected for last 2 weeks. I am depressed.

  • 1
    Do you have a friend with whom you could practice presenting your ideas? Also, don't prepare a script, prepare notes that only contain the key points.
    – Roland
    Dec 22 '16 at 7:55
  • It might be worth looking into something like Toastmasters which can help develop public speaking skills (and deal with the related nerves) or taking a few improv classes which could help with thinking and adapting in the moment (when you're asked questions).
    – Chris G
    Dec 22 '16 at 16:26

I know what you are experiencing, I had the same issue in my work field (explaining ideas and giving an opinion). I think it's just a matter of work experience and knowing what you're worth. This is helping me, and hopefully it will help you too:

  • Practice. Ask a senior if he wants to give you feedback. Prepare a presentation where you explain an idea to him, with the emphasize on why you made certain choices. He can give you feedback on your idea's and your presentation skills. Keep a small note with you including keywords if this helps you in presenting your idea.
  • Have your own, unique vision. As a junior you can feel like you know less than others, sometimes you can be stuck between the opinion of a client and opinions of your colleagues. All while they expect you to have your own vision. Keep on practicing but focus on developing your own visions in the fashion world. You are unique and your designs should be unique as well.
  • Do research & keep up with trends. You already wrote you usually do your research and prepare your meetings well. But keep up with trends and fashion news, and use articles you find as a source/help for your argumentation.
  • Side projects or voluntary work. Maybe it will help you when you use your skills in a type of voluntary work or a side project in collaboration with others. Find a place where you can practice explaining ideas.

Furthermore, I hope you'll find colleagues who can help you but who also compliment your skills. This can help you to feel more sure of your work and deliver a better presentation. Not being able to explain your ideas doesn't mean your designs are bad, you just still have to grow in explaining your ideas and be sure about your skills.

  • Practice, practice, practice -- > especially in front of a couple of friends.
    – Neo
    Dec 22 '16 at 13:26

When I was young, I had a similar problem. I really was a mess who couldn't look anyone in eye and spoke way too softly, forgot my points, and took everything as a personal criticism and was afraid that every word would cost me my job - I think you can relate. My boss sent me to a public speaking class because being able to make presentations to a hostile audience was a key part of my profession and that helped, but what really licked the problem for good was a specific practice technique.

What I did was go into an empty room and practice and video tape. Over and over and over again until I could watch the tape without cringing. Spend a couple of full days at this (on a weekend if need be). Practice your gestures, exaggerating them at first until you can settle into a comfortable level of gesturing. Try different tones of voice, different volumes. Pretend to be someone who you think does a good job at those meetings. The way people learn best is by experimenting and exaggerating things helps you move from too little to too much to just right.

The thing about exaggerating when you practice is that you know you are exaggerating and then you can relax more about it because it is supposed to be over the top. And for people who are not naturally extroverted, what you see as exaggerating in your mind, might just look polished and professional on the video. That is because we often underestimate how much we need to correct. And it is easier to back off of an exaggeration than to move away from what currently feels comfortable. I learned thing when getting coached for dressage - when the coach made me exaggerate, it was much faster to get to the exact position I should have been in than trying to get incrementally better.

One key thing is doing this is to consciously try something different on each iteration of your presentation. Do the first one and review it and note what needs to change to be better. Be mentally prepared that it will feel horrible, trust that it will get better much more rapidly than you can guess right now.

Then consciously change one and only of those things at a time until it does get better. So if you feel you are speaking too softly, the next time, try yelling, then try to move to a slightly lower tone of voice than that time. Eventually you will hone in on the correct volume. The work on the stiff gestures. Then work on looking people in the eye or whatever problems you have identified.

Yes, this is hard work. It feels awkward and embarrassing at first. Do it anyway. It will pay off because you are in a field where you need to be able to do this.

Start by fixing your presentation by yourself and then when you have gotten more confident that you can do the basic presentation well, then get someone to help you by throwing ridiculously hard questions at you as if they were the senior manager. Once you have the experience of being able to think on your feet, the real thing won't be nearly as intimidating.


Is there anybody you can partner with and who can go to the meetings with you?

Explain to your management why you need someone to back you up during meetings - " I have difficult time to explain my work to senior levels. Even though I spent so much time to prepare it,( I sometimes make a script and memorize it.) But once meeting starts, I feel nervous and I forget most of things that I prepared. Also if somebody ask questions about my work, I never be able to answer promptly."

Your getting nervous won't get you anywhere. The worst that happens is that your design doesn't get selected and you are no worse off than you are right now. So give it your best shot, you have nothing to lose.

Having said that, review your notes. If your notes are complicated or too complicated for a fast-moving meeting, then your notes are unusable. They need to be short and to the point. Five sentences maybe. Just keywords if possible. If you have to read your notes in full at the meetings, then your notes are probably too wordy for use.

By now, having attended several meetings, you should have a prettty good idea what questions they are asking. Rehearse giving answers, ideally with your partner, before the meeting starts. The shorter and the simpler the answers you give, the less likely you stumble giving the answers.

Chew on your favorite candy before the meeting starts - I stopped getting nervous about meetings long ago abut I am still crazy about candy :)

Your partner should take a backseat to you during meetings unless they see you stumble. Then they back you up.

Good luck.

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