(This post was originally published Dec 2014)
I had an outstanding experience recently with a workshop participant from one of our major client companies. This young man had participated in one of our one-day presentation skills workshops about six weeks ago. And then he signed up for a different workshop this week, a two-day “executive communication skills” workshop. In the October session, he did an OK job, but there was lots of room for improvement. And we told him so. He spoke too quickly. He didn’t get to the point very well. His message was completely disorganized and confusing. His slides were visually overwhelming. He was “informing” and not “persuading.”
In other words, he made it nearly impossible for the audience to follow a story and focus on key points. And in other words, it sounded a lot like the standard, annoying presentation that gets made fun of all the time, and is all-too-common in the business world.
But yesterday he was a different guy. He was clear. He got to the point. He was selling and persuading rather than informing. His rate of speech had slowed considerably. His slides were simpler. He was easy to follow. It was a joy to listen to.
Was it perfect? Not quite. But in a matter of six weeks, it was a remarkable transformation.
I share the story for two reasons. First off, on a personal level, it gave me great satisfaction to see someone our firm had coached make such dramatic progress in a short time. But more importantly, it validated the notion of preparation and practice. We always preach preparation and practice, but not everyone follows the advice. And predictably, their skills tend to stay about where they were. But in this case, he embraced our feedback and committed himself to preparation and practice. And in six short weeks, he improved from a typically poor presenter to a strong one. The transformation was remarkable.
The point is simple. When someone preaches “preparation and practice” to you, they are not just going through the motions and saying what they are supposed to say. They are actually giving you the correct advice. Correct preparation and thorough practice are the twin saviors who will rescue you from a mediocre performance.
Have a great day.