Posts Tagged ‘discipline’

‘Winging it’ is for the Birds.

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

Colorful silhouettes of flying birds.THE PRESENTER TRAP

The four deadliest words a prospective presenter can say are, “I’ll just wing it.”

When it comes to presentation excellence, professionalism is synonymous with preparation. Audiences may forgive initial jitters but they will rarely forgive an unpolished performance. In a highly competitive business world ‘winging it’ is risky business. Be prepared. Be professional. You may be a subject expert however this alone does not ensure that you can effectively communicate your knowledge to an audience.

You may argue, “I know someone who is a great presenter and she tells me she wings it all the time.” I would receive the proclamation with caution and skepticism.  You may recall the student who told you she only starts studying the night before exams and always gets an ‘A’.  Believing this to be true, the next time you have an exam you cram the night before only to be shocked when you receive an ‘F’.  I’m not so cynical to think that the ‘A’ student was leading you to fail, but rather, she likely wanted to impress you with her scholastic expertise. Having said that, there are those amazing few presenters who have the innate talent to deliver presentations with limited preparation.  The rest of we mortals need to plan and practice.

Audiences know when you lack preparation and they don’t like it. It makes them feel that you didn’t think they were worth the time. They attend presentations with high expectations and low attention spans. To keep people engaged requires substantive content and dynamic delivery. A sign that you have successfully engaged your audience is when you are able to stop them from reaching for their smartphones while you speak.

A DISCIPLINED PROCESS

One of the first questions I ask when coaching a client is, “What’s your process? The common response is, “I build a deck and put speaker notes below the slides.” A good start but that is only about 50% of the equation. Your road to success begins with a disciplined process which is a combination of efficient planning and diligent practice.  As one of my acting instructors once said, “It is not how many hours you practice, but rather how you practice in those hours.”

I have my clients deliver their presentations twice in a row to see if they are able to repeat the presentation with consistent content and delivery.  You don’t want to be a ‘one hit wonder’ who presents on a wing and a prayer.  The high standard of delivery and messaging needs to be repeatable. Imagine if you attended a theatre production on a night when the cast was performing erratically – lines missed, sloppy staging, and lack of enthusiasm. You would feel cheated by the experience and the ticket price.

BEWARE THE SHORTER IS EASIER MYTH

There is a popular misconception that a shorter presentation is easier to prepare.

A shorter presentation doesn’t mean you can take shortcuts. It is known among professional speakers that the less time you are given to speak, the greater the challenge. Short presentations can actually require more preparation than a lengthier one. Why?  You have limited time to engage your audience and communicate your ideas.  The messages need to be delivered with precision. Economy of words is critical.  This notable saying underscores the point, “If I had more time I would have written a shorter letter.”

REDUCE NERVOUSNESS

The more you practice the less nervous you will be.  If you have anxiety when you speak, particularly when stakes are high, why sabotage yourself by not being properly prepared?  Some people think they need oxygen and medication to make it through their presentation. What they really need is to prepare and practice to build their confidence.

Here is a list of suggestions to practice properly:

  1. Deliver at performance level.
  2. Time your presentation for repeatable consistency and continuity.
  3. Visualize a positive response.
  4. Practice advancing slides along with verbal transitions.
  5. Tape record your presentation to evaluate your delivery and refine content.
  6. Repeat process and refine content and delivery until you feel confident.

Presentations: Always have plans B and C

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Plan A B C.001It is not unusual for a meeting or conference agenda to fall behind.  This can happen for a number of reasons, but one of the most common is speakers running over their assigned presentation times.  If you are asked to be a presenter then you have a responsibility to keep within your assigned limit, to do otherwise is indulgent and disrespectful of those with whom you are sharing the platform, and to the meeting planner who painstakingly developed the program.  Demonstrate professionalism and consideration. Be prepared.

You may have already experienced being that presenter who is the victim of the prolonged agenda. The scenario usually goes something like this.  You are the last, or close to last, speaker on the agenda. Out of the corner of your eye you see the meeting planner approaching with a stealth-like stride. Your inner voice sighs, “Uh, Oh.”, as your body goes tense.  Sure enough, you are asked to cut your 30-minute presentation, which you worked so long and hard to prepare, down to 15 minutes. Your mind races as your presentation flashes before your eyes. What slides should I cut?  What stories should I dump? Shall I speak double time?

Spare yourself this anxiety and be prepared with a Plan B, and possibly a Plan C.  Practice the abbreviated versions in the same way as you would your full presentation.

To determine how to make the edits consider these three questions:

1. What is the most relevant content for this audience?

2. What is the most compelling information?

3. What are the most compact stories and examples?

(Choose stories and examples that require minimal set up and narrative.)

Other Tips to making Edits:

–      Determine the content that is a “need to know’ for the audience versus ‘a nice to know’. The ‘nice to know’ information is the disposable one for your plan B and C

–      Time each story or example so that you know how long it takes to deliver.   Always practice in real-time and at performance level. Speaking more quickly is never a good solution.

–      Limit the number of slides and number of bullets. You can always expand when time allows.  Not every idea has to be displayed in your slide show.

–      Calculate the length of your Q and A and include this as part of your assigned time.  This timing is often overlooked or poorly estimated

Golf: Personal Mastery at Work

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

Golf flagI love to golf. I am an average golfer. Average as a result of limited practice. None the less, I have a great passion for the game and look forward to the hours on the course when the only goal is to get that little white sphere in the hole. Preferably in two putts or less! Golf is an oasis from the worries and tasks of the day. Golf is great outdoor exercise while enjoying quality time with friends, family, and colleagues. For my summer holiday I went to the magnificent Priddis Greens Golf Course outside of Calgary to watch the CN Canadian Women’s Open. My intention was to breathe fresh mountain air, view the vistas of the Rockies as I watched the best women golfers in the world, and pick up a few tips along the way.  I came away with more. I learned that the best practices of golf can be applied to business. If you are top of the Leader Board today, that doesn’t ensure you will be on top tomorrow. Complacency is your biggest enemy, along with the pressure of challengers nipping at your heals. You need to play your personal best. I noted that at the end of each round the players were back on the putting green practicing for the next day.  After all, it’s those short strokes that clinch the win. As the classic saying goes, “Drive for show and putt for dough.”

Personal Mastery:

Passion

Mental and physical conditioning

Determination and discipline

Focus

Resiliency

Patience

Consistency

Fortitude

Confidence

Calculated risk

Link to www.cncanadianwomensopen.com