Are you familiar with the Sherlock Holmes story ‘The Adventure of Silver Blaze’? Investigating a crime, in which a horse (the Silver Blaze) was stolen, the dog in the stable yard did not bark. Holmes, ever the curious detective, realized this was a clue: the theft was conducted by somebody the dog already knew!
Enabling presenters to deliver a winning presentation, often forces me to put on my detective hat. Since I focus on mission-critical presentations, I need to understand what’s unique to this one – and how to make sure the design and delivery is going to get the presenter over the finish line.
For instance, a client with lots of presentation experience once asked me to help him prepare for a high-stakes Board presentation. He wanted to become part of a specific division with lots of growth opportunities; failing he’d probably be forced to leave the company. Mentally checking off all his strengths and weaknesses, I realized that he was intimidated to present to the Board and present something that personally was important. With the traditional presentation content and format, and speaker deliveries not the issue, I asked him to take me to the Board room so I could visually see the setting.
Once I entered, I understood one reason he was intimated. The conference table was very long (seating probably 40+ people. The speaker would be at one end of the table and the key decision-maker would be “miles away” at the other end! He wouldn’t be able to rely on his strength of personal connections.
We prepared for him to walk the room, instead of standing at the podium and settling half way down the table, so he could connect with the decision-maker. He asked two key “fans” to sit around the middle of the table, so we could be “talking to them” and feel more relaxed. It worked, he succeeded.
So, the next time you have a high-stakes presentation that you’re nervous about, put on your detective hat (or get a coach/trainer to do so for you). It might be related to competition, new technologies, lack of direct experience, an uncomfortable setting, etc. Discover what’s “invisible”, shed light on it, and overcome the obstacle.