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, or for success. These are some of the things my team does.
In our ‘before phase’ we spend a lot of time thinking about the audience, such as: who are they, what are they thinking and then establishing our three key messages. This is before we have even opened PowerPoint. This sounds really straightforward so far. No surprises. Once we have our audience and content right, we then practise. 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 practise, the luckier I get.”
There is simply no escaping the hard yards; it’s practise, practise and more practise. Everyone has his or her favourite way of practising. Mine is to record myself on my phone and play it back, or listen to it in the car. People are afraid they will seem too contrived if they practise. Believe me: you won’t. It’s your material, and you will ‘own it’. I rather take the risk of seeming too polished than coming across as poorly prepared.
Our mentor Peter Cook says on the day of your presentation, 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 Channel 9’s reality TV show, The Voice, judge and mentor 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’. Spend a minute or two evaluating how you went. You can ask a trusted advisor in the audience, and read your Twitter feed. Always ask yourself what you would keep and what you would do differently. As I often present with my business partner, Gabrielle, we do this straight after any presentation. Evaluation is a dish best served hot!
All of this sounds simple but it’s about 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.