It was Samuel Goldwyn, of the movie company MGM, who said “The harder I work, the luckier I get”. So how does one get lucky with presentations? I often think of a presentation as living on a timeline. There are things to do before the presentation, things to do during and things to do after that set us up for luck, for success. These are some things we do.
In our ‘before phase’ we spend a lot of time thinking about the audience – who are they, what are they thinking etc. and then establishing our 3 key messages. This is before we have even opened up PowerPoint. This sounds really straightforward so far. No surprises. Once we have our audience and content right we then practice. This comes as a real surprise to most people including some of our clients. The famous golfer Gary Player said something similar to Goldwyn’s quote, “The more I practice, the luckier I get”. There is simply no escaping the hard yards; it’s practice, practice and more practice. Everyone has his or her favorite way of practising. Mine is to record myself into my phone and hear it back, or loud in the car. People are afraid they will seem too contrived if they practice. Believe me you won’t, as it’s your material, you will own it. I rather take the risk of seeming too polished than coming across as poorly prepared.
Our mentor Peter Cook says right on the day the most important thing is your mindset. Do you see the presentation as a bore, something you have to do, or do you want to give it your best shot? On ‘The Voice’ channel 9’s reality TV show, Seal gave each of his team members a folded sheet of paper to prepare them for their battle ahead. When they opened it, the paper simply said ‘There is nothing else there”. He wanted them to approach this as if there was nothing else there. Imagine approaching your next presentation with this mindset.
And finally the ‘After phase’. Spending a minute or two evaluating how you went. You can ask a trusted advisor in the audience and read the twitter feed. Always ask yourself what you would keep and what you would do differently. Evaluation is a dish best served hot!
All of this sounds simple but it’s having the discipline to do it every time for every presentation. Way back in the first century, Seneca, a Roman philosopher who seems like a really cool guy nailed it when he said ‘Luck is where preparation meets opportunity’. So see every presentation as an opportunity to shine and prepare like mad to get there.