The other day, as I was wrapping up part two of a three-part presentation skills training program, I gave the group their assignment for the mock presentations they are scheduled to deliver during the third and final phase. I think it’s fair to say that the 18 or so faces in front of me did not look excited, so I found myself saying: “Please don’t dread these presentations. They’re going to be much more fun and beneficial than you think. Look at them as an opportunity, a gift … yada yada yada.”
Ugh, since when did I become just like the dentist? That’s what the faces seemed to convey to me – the upcoming mock presentations evoked the same dread as impending dental work.
The reality for this group, however, is that being given the chance to work on their presentation skills in a safe, friendly, supportive environment is an opportunity and a gift. They are part of a leadership development program in their company and therefore have been identified as super high-potential professionals deemed worthy of the investment of time and money. Their skills are being cultivated in many areas critical to their future success, presentation skills being just one.
If I had been thinking on my feet a little better that day, I would not have said, “Please don’t dread these presentations.” Here’s what I would have said instead and here’s what everyone in a high-potential career situation needs to think about:
“Welcome to the big leagues! In the big leagues, you guys will go up against some of the best in the business, and there is no doubt your communication and presentation skills will be one of your key differentiators. So, let’s talk about you getting in the right head space for this next and final phase of our training.
No one in the big leagues wastes time dreading an at bat. Rather, they spend their time imagining a home run, being fully prepared to deliver a stellar performance, and embracing the moment when it comes. That’s what I want all of you to do as you get ready for your presentations – imagine success, prepare for it, and come into the room like it’s Opening Day and you are being given an opportunity to shine!”
That would have been a heck of a lot better than imploring the group not to dread it. Lesson learned … by me, this time!