In this business, we get involved in all sorts of events. Have laptop, will travel. So, the call to make a presentation on coaching to the Irish Midwives conference in Galway wasn’t particularly unusual. On the basis that you can never become complacent, I needed something to grab audience attention right up front. While the first 100 days sets the tone for a political career, the first 100 seconds are critically important in effective presentations. When he did shows with American soldiers stationed overseas, Bob Hope always completed preliminary reconnaissance. He’d find out something quirky about the commanding officer. Then he’d build that into an opening joke and have the audience eating out of his hand. While not many people have Bob Hope’s delivery, we can all steal shamelessly from the method.
Phone a Friend: In times of crisis you turn to your friends, right? As it happens, one of my music buddies, Sean Dowling, is a midwife in the Rotunda (apparently, there are 3 male midwives working there. Who would have known?). I explained the dilemma and he promised to come back with the answer. During the follow-up conversation, Sean was excited. “I have it, I have it” he declared. “You walk on stage to the James Bond soundtrack and declare: ‘Paul Mooney, at your Cervix.'” With friends like Sean, who needs enemies? Googling like crazy I came up with the line “I’m a midwife. What’s your superpower?” and ran with that instead (#chicken).
Humour Works: Humour works well – up to a point. Right up to the edge of the cliff it works really great. Go just beyond that and the fall is steep. One time I sat in the audience at a CIPD conference (85% women) when the male presenter used a poor metaphor to describe the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, using the old line that payment for doing good work (extrinsic reward) was the equivalent of a ‘fur coat and no knickers.’ He thought it was hilarious. The audience didn’t. There’s a thin line between grabbing attention for the right and the wrong reasons. That’s why using humour is scary for many presenters.
Oops: Fall from Grace: And that’s exactly what happened to me during a recent pitch – this time (again) to a group of nurses. In fact I may have had a double whammy in that neither the content nor the style of the presentation went down well and the feedback was suitably brutal (I brought along a guy to play a piece of music and they seemed to like him – so that’s something to cling to). In this particular case I’d made the rookie error of not doing enough research on the exact needs of the audience and ran a ‘pitch’ for a more advanced group that completely missed the mark. Lesson 1: You have to do your homework and I screwed up.
Public Speaking: Jerry Seinfield said that at a funeral, most people would rather be in the casket than have to deliver the eulogy. So, public speaking is not for the faint hearted. And, no matter how experienced you are, from time to time we all make mistakes and fall from grace. But, here’s the kicker. It’s almost impossible to build a successful executive career without being a reasonably good public speaker. You don’t have to morph into Barack Obama. And you don’t have to ‘win’ every single pitch you make. But, if you are ambitious, you can’t avoid this area. If you are not ‘cured’ already, I suggest you undertake a public speaking course. Something tough (‘if it doesn’t challenge you – it probably won’t change you either’). In addition to honing your speaking skills, the ability to make great presentations builds confidence. So that’s the pitch this week. Now, you just need to get cracking on it!
PS If you would like help with this area – I can send you a workbook on Public Speaking. There’s no cost and no catch. Just send me your email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Feedback Comment of the Week: This guy I know – let’s call him Mike – is a brutal golfer. A couple of weeks ago he playing in a Pro-Am (3 Amateur players get to play a round of golf with a professional). At the end of the round it’s normal that the professional player gives the amateurs some feedback – a couple of golfing tips having watched them play over the past 4 hours.
According to my sources, Mike played particularly badly that day. Hitting drives out of bounds. Duffing iron shots. Lousy putting. Nothing seemed to be working. At the end of the round, he almost ran up to the professional and, like a child, asked: “So, what do you think?” Deadpan, the professional responded: “You need to get 2 inches cut off the top of each club.” A light came on in Mike’s eyes. Finally, someone had diagnosed his golfing problem. He said: “If I get the clubs shortened, will that make me a better player?” The Pro responded: “No, but it will make it easier for you to get your clubs into a wheelie bin.”
PS Lighter Moment: Was working for a manager recently who told me he had outlawed BMW’s? I thought it was something to do with travel costs or air emissions until he explained that it stood for ‘Bitch, Moan and Whine sessions’. Hey, good luck with that.
Key Question: Q: What do you call a Pirate with 2 arms, 2 eyes and 2 legs? A: A beginner!
Proof that men are better friends … (from Joe Bell)
Friendship among Women: A woman didn’t come home one night. The next morning she told her husband that she had slept over at a friend’s house. The man called his wife’s 10 best friends. None of them knew anything about it.
Friendship among Men: A man didn’t come home one night. The next morning he told his wife that he had slept over at a friend’s house. The woman called her husband’s 10 best friends. Eight confirmed that he had slept over, and two said he was still there.
PPS Officer Fitness Reports: The British Military writes OFR’s (Officer Fitness Reports). The form used for Royal Navy and Marine fitness reports is the S206. The following are actual excerpts …. you couldn’t make it up…
“His men would follow him anywhere, but only out of idle curiosity.”
“I would hesitate to breed from this Officer.”
“He’s not so much of a has-been, but more of a definitely won’t-be.”
“When she opens her mouth, this is only to change whichever foot was previously in there.”
“He has carried out each and every one of his duties to his entire satisfaction.”
“He would be out of his depth in a car park puddle.”
“Technically sound. Socially impossible.”
“When he joined my ship, this Officer was something of a granny: since then he has aged considerably.”
“This Medical Officer has used my ship to carry his genitals from port to port, and my officers to carry him from bar to bar.”
“Since my last report he has reached rock bottom and started to dig.”
“She sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them.”
“She has the wisdom of youth, and the energy of old age.”
“This man is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot.”
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