I made some banana and blueberry muffins the other day. I forgot the blueberries!
They were in the recipe. I’d got them out ready, and they were on the worktop. But I’ve made these a thousand times before and didn’t bother to check the recipe or even consciously think ( my mind was on other things).
So my boys called them Banana and Blueberry Surprise Muffins. The surprise is…there are no blueberries.
The point of this little domestic story is that it didn’t really matter. I can report that Banana muffins are delicious. And if I hadn’t told the boys, they wouldn’t have known. And so it is with presentations. Sometimes we have the script or plan and are really well organised, but somehow, we forget one of the ‘ingredients’. A lot of the time, maybe it doesn’t matter. After all, the audience doesn’t know.
Here are three important things to remember so we don’t take ourselves too seriously when we speak in public:
- It is (rarely) life and death when we speak in public. Really! So, of course, you don’t want to look a fool when delivering a presentation to the boss, board, or potential clients. Messing up a presentation, while annoying and frustrating, isn’t a failure, provided you learn from it. What can you do next time? What do you need to do more of? What could you start to do?
- People want you to succeed. Really! They would much rather you be up there than them, and they want you to deliver well so that they feel their time has been used wisely and productively. So they will you on to succeed and often forgive little errors on the way.
- The audience hasn’t heard your talk before. So they don’t know if you missed anything. Or added anything in. Or changed the wording or sequencing. Just like the banana blueberry muffins, turned banana muffins. So we have more leeway than we think we do.
But on some occasions, it will really matter. Imagine if I’d forgotten the flour or the eggs. Disaster! We need a plan. We need a prompt. We need to be fully present ( and not have our minds somewhere else) and know the vital ingredients in the first place.
Here are three important planning techniques that mean you don’t deliver a ‘surprise’:
- Work out and know the key milestones of your talk – the beginning, the end, and the key destinations in between. When you know these, then the detail of the content tends to follow. In a baking recipe, if I know the key ingredients and the order, I will (usually) remember the method and use all the detail.
- Practice the sound, flow and pace of the talk. Do this before you deliver to your audience. In other words, make sure that you practice out loud. If a customer had ordered and paid for the blueberry muffins, then practising the method and outcomes (taste) would have been more crucial.
- Make sure that you are fully present in the practice. This is important. Too many people practice in a rote way – just making sure they can remember what comes next. They miss the opportunity to practice delivering their talk in the same way they want it to be heard by their audience. It means that their delivery is often too fast and too flat.
- Being fully present in the delivery sounds like an obvious thing to state, but all too often, it is easy to get lost inside our heads and caught up with distracting thoughts (the man in the front row looks angry, what’s on my next slide, eek I feel nervous etc etc). When fully present in the room, you can connect with the audience, and your talk takes on meaning, resonance and power.
What are your thoughts? Hit me with your questions, comments- even your baking-related disasters.!