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Sulemaan Ahmed

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How to Keep Your Calm in a Presentation

Posted: 02/15/2013 11:58 am

You know those moments where life just surprises you out of the blue? When you get dealt a lousy hand and you can but refuse to fold? What do you do? As one of my executive clients out west recently noted to me: "You gotta make chicken soup from chicken feathers sometimes." Just very recently, this message got hammered home twice within the same week.

One day, I was supposed to meet the President of an organization to review a presentation. If it went well, it could lead to many potential client opportunities. Pretty clear cut, right? Well, the previous time I went through an iteration of the presentation with the President, let's just say I crashed and burned. No survivors.

Fortunately, this executive was extremely gracious and gave me another opportunity so I intended to deliver.

I showed up on time at the President's office and he greeted me graciously as usual. He then advised me that a half-dozen key stakeholders on his team (and successful business people in their own right) were there also so I might as well run the presentation by everyone. The problem was that I didn't know I was going to present to a group so I left my projector at home.

No big deal.

We try to hook up my laptop to the two projectors on site. Both of the projectors simply do not sync up properly to my laptop.

Big deal.

The audience had a busy schedule and only allocated 30 minutes for my presentation and we're already 12 minutes delayed.

Big deal.

So I take my laptop and plunk it on a stack of books in the middle of the table and tell them I'm going to present. It actually worked and in no small part due to a very patient audience. One of them later opined, "If you could deliver under such circumstances then you'll be fine."

No big deal.

If this was five years ago, I may have panicked but it's amazing what you can do when you force yourself to focus.

Three days later I'm in the midst of presenting to clients across the country via a conference call and web presentation. The problem is that their technology was not cooperating due to very restrictive IT constraints but we'd figure out a solution.

No big deal.

It's now time to start and no presentation sharing platform (Slideshare / Join.me) will work due to the firm's firewalls.

No big deal.

So I figure I'll just email the presentations to the attendees in PDF to follow along and we'll be fine. The email inboxes at my clients are not working.

Big deal.

I also advised everyone that those who were late must do 1 push-up for each minute they are late. Yours truly is now 19 minutes late to start.

Big deal.

It doesn't matter that technology wasn't cooperating because as host of the meeting it's all on me. We could have rescheduled the call but we decided to forge ahead, let the chips fall where they may and finished the entire presentation on time to the surprising satisfaction of everyone. Yours truly then had to do 19 pushups for the late start. (Blurry photographic evidence below and you might just see the man on the grassy knoll but I digress...)

2013-02-15-pushup.jpg

Big deal.

Kidding aside, years ago I probably would have frozen under such circumstances but since then learned to stay calm and plug ahead. And if I can learn to do that then anyone else sure can.

No big deal.

 

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