I came away from lunch feeling as if Patrick and I were kindred spirits. We share the same passion and commitment for striving for excellence in public speaking. We both feel that mastering the art of presentation and speaking is an excellent way to distinguish one’s company brand and one’s career reputation.
Now Patrick also told me that he has observed that may professionals are unwilling to put in the time and effort in the preparation process. They prefer to “wing it” – hoping that their natural talent will come through in the moment of truth. I have observed the same thing in my past corporate life. Patrick used the phrase “professional myth” in our conversation, which gave me the idea and motivation for this spirited article.
Are you you limiting your career potential by giving haphazard presentations?
Have you ever said this, thought this or heard this come out of your mouth?
“That’s why they pay me the big bucks. I’m good on my feet. I’m come through when it really counts.” – Overconfident Executive
“I don’t have time to practice and rehearse. I’m too busy. Just give me the PowerPoint presentation and I’ll be fine.” – Stressed out Executive
“Look! I’m a real presenter!” – Executive suffering from Pinocchio syndrome
- Scenario #1 – Professional athletes allowed themselves to skip practice session, didn’t have time for the drills (in fact, found they them somewhat boring and intolerable)…or perhaps they are just too busy with PR to take time out for daily practice. “My fans await me. What new tattoo should I get? What brand sponsorships do you think are possible? How much are they worth?”
- Scenario #2 -Professional dancers adopted this high risk strategy. “Show me the routine. What music? Who am I dancing with? What will I be wearing? Do these tights make me look fat? What time do you need me to show up? Note to self: don’t forget to stretch before I go out there…”
- Scenario #3 -Professional musicians knocked out a tune now and then, but only dressed up on concert day. “I hear this music in my dreams. I was born with talent. Magical fingers do your thing!”
The realities created from any these scenarios would be nothing short of unimpressive performance, injuries and total embarrassments. This is not the stuff that true professionals strive for. So why do so many business professionals allow themselves to “wing it” when giving presentations?
A man is walking in New York City and stops a stranger to ask for directions.
He asks “How do you get to Carnegie Hall??
The stranger answers “Practice-practic-practice!”
The truth is how you practice is how you’ll play the game! There is no substitution for preparation and practice when giving professional presentations. Practice (plus courage and commitment) make perfect.
Suggestions & Useful Tools:
Here’s my ritual for preparing and practicing prior to giving a presentation:
- I always complete a Clean Sheet Thinking™ pre-planning sheet. Takes less than 30 minutes and gets my head in the game. I do this BEFORE I create any slides or content for the presentation.
- I outline the core content of my talk that supports my key message. I begin to identify themes and structure. I research for the best supportive data. I develop my own original ideas.
- Since I usually end up with too much content, I make a concerted effort to reduce it. Less is more in presentation. Mantra: Always leave them wanting more..
- I chunk it out into sections – and identify what I call the “choreography” of the talk.
- I then audio record the talk using free Audacity recording software. I speak my presentation right into my computer using inexpensive $40 headphones. This way I can time the length of the talk and listen back to it for needed improvement and sections to shorten or expand.
- When I’m satisfied, I burn an audio CD and then listen to it while driving. This helps me get more familiar and comfortable with the content so I can deliver it live without notes, slides or other crutches.
- If the audio recording is good enough, I may have a product that I can sell or give-away during or after the talk. Think MP3 content creation – all archived on the web site – creating more value for your visitors.
- For larger events, I will make an effort to visit the venue to check out the room & discuss A/V with the technical team. I don’t want any surprises the day of.
- Live rehearsal in the actual room PRIOR to the event is best practice. If I can’t get to the actual site, I will do a mock stand up presentation rehearsal with a trusted friend for critique and feedback.
- For high stakes presentations, I will use video taped rehearsal and take time to critically review and try changes to my delivery.
Who has time for all this?
You do; I do; we all do – if we want to be at the top of our game. We are paid professionals, after all. Business professionals. It’s time we start practicing like one!