This week, I was called to fill in on a presentation originally slotted to be given by a colleague, a multi-year veteran of Accenture. Since we had developed the material outline together, when she was called away on family matters, she asked me to fill in giving the talk. Yikes!
Presenting on the fly
I don't know about you, but I'm a preparer. I take an average of 20 hours to put together a talk and run through it multiple times in order to establish timing, flow and opportunities for audience participation. I was the kid who actually wrote out a full outline, first and second draft and completed the final draft days before the project was due. Some folks can BS and improv; those were never among my strengths, for better or worse.
In my attempts to quell the panic the day before the conference (or at least give the outward appearance of quelling the panic), this mantra kept circulating in my head: it's all about the content. It's all about the content.
What is your presentation goal?
Some speakers have finesse. Some speakers can captivate an audience, no matter the subject matter. Some will always have presence. For the rest of us, it comes down to confidence in the content. And in this case, while the content may not have been arranged in the 100% perfect format that my inner editor would have wished, it was spectacularly good content: a unique point of view, good supporting documentation, and, most importantly, it left the audience questioning some basic beliefs. Even if most ulitmately decided that current metrics are acceptable, the goal was to insert a new way of thinking into current metrics and question how, what and why we measure.
I spent several years teaching at the University of Texas, a few years more developing textbooks content and still more years as a presentation consultant. And one belief I have is that the audience will at best take away one or two ideas from your talk. They are not sponges that will absorb every point of your content; they won't absorb half of it. Do you absorb that much with each talk you attend?
Just one thing
My goal was to challenge current thinking and spawn discussion on how we might accomplish a change. If you have to present on the fly, consider quelling your own butterflies with this idea: will they walk away with one idea or factoid that they didn't have before? That is an admirable goal.
What are your presentation goals when notice and content are short?