Do Whatever It Takes!

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Last year, SUNY was hosting a special program for Colombian government officials. At the last minute, they had a cancellation and asked me if I could fill in and do a presentation on Leadership Challenges in the 21st Century. They agreed to have a translator present to convert my English into Spanish for the audience. I agreed.  Then, I followed the Number One Rule that I teach in all our presentation workshops and coaching – BE AUDIENCE DRIVEN.

  • I developed content to be valuable for the audience
  • I created an organizational structure and style that would allow for interaction, even if there was a language barrier.
  • I decided to have the slides translated into Spanish, so while people wait to hear my English translated, they could at least read the words in their language.
  • Before I started, I “met my audienceâ€. I knew Spanish was their first language and expected many to also speak some English, allowing them to get something from my speech, if I spoke more slowly, and get the rest from the translator.  I discovered that virtually no-one spoke English.
  • Recognizing that if the audience and I had to wait for each and every sentence to be translated, that would significantly reduce the impact of the presentation. Since I had learned Spanish many years ago, I asked the audience if they would let me try to present in Spanish, with the translator filling in when I was stuck. Knowing that the technical words were in Spanish on the slides, I figured I could probably cover about half the presentation in a broken and often grammatically incorrect Spanish. The audience overwhelmingly told me “ Go for itâ€, and I did.
  • Turns out I presented almost 90% of the presentation myself – and built a terrific rapport with the audience (and received compliments later).

At Presentation Excellence, and all the other companies with which I’m involved, our approach is to do “whatever it takes†to meet the client’s needs if possible.  A partner once gave a client a fresh shirt he happened to be carrying for an afternoon investor meeting when an accident spoiled the one he was wearing. Good thing I took all those years of Spanish many years ago!

May all your presentations be excellent!