Monday, March 28, 2011

Being Comfortable is Hard

It's easy to look unprepared. Just don't put any effort into your presentation. Looking casual, relaxed, confident and comfortable is REALLY hard—it takes a lot of practice. A LOT.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book, "Outliers" that to become a superstar at anything, it takes 10,000 hours of work or practice. It might not always be true or accurate (I don't think the Doors practiced much at all before they were rock superstars), but the concept is an important one to grasp.

Practice doesn't make perfect—it just makes you better than everyone else.

We were talking to a prospective client recently about an upcoming conference where he is to stand in front of a room full of 300 individuals who came out to hear about his company. When asked if he was getting ready and how he was preparing for the presentation, he quipped, "I donno, I'm just gonna wing it." He didn't even know the exact date and location of the keynote.

We believe he's preparing to fail. A swift kick in the 'nads would prepare him for the pain of failure that he should expect next month.

Three-hundred people, giving up their free or business time to drive or fly to this event, and listen to this speaker—yet, he doesn't believe that it valuable enough for him to prepare and practice. Fail.

This week another client of ours gave his presentation to his corporation's constituents after weeks of writing, crafting, slide preparation, and most importantly PRACTICE. How did he do? He knocked it out of the park. He was relaxed, comfortable and the message flowed from his body. His audience was engaged and appreciative. He worked for these rewards. He worked hard. The first time we met with him to coach him through his speech, he was unprepared. But seeing how important it was that he should be prepared and know his material, he went back to work to make himself better, and he did it.

It would have been easy for this VP to brush it off and "wing it," but he would have crashed and burned in a fiery ball of goo. Very few of us have the ability to get up there and speak comfortably on any subject, let alone something we know. It just doesn't work that way. Steve Jobs looks casual and comfortable at new Apple product releases because he practices over and over and over again! Not because he's just a regular guy talking about a cool new product, but because he has rehearsed the material and he knows it inside and out. He works his ass off at it.

So remember that if we ask you how you are preparing for your upcoming presentation and you respond, "I'm just going to wing it," be prepared to be physically and emotionally abused—because we're just preparing you for how you feel after you are done failing.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Spending Good Money After Bad

In this industry, as many others, you come across jobs from time to time that are handed to you to repair or redo. It happens more often than you would imagine. A company seeks out a vendor to perform a service—in our case, creating a slide presentation—and the results fall fatally short of their goals or needs. They usually have spent a lot of money on this service—sometimes overpaid for the results, and it puts them in a bad position. They are then forced to make a very difficult decision. Do they leave it as-is and deal with the poor results or do they spend money again and have it re-done to a higher level?

When my wife and I bought our current house, we decided to have the entire house painted before we ever moved in. We figured it would be a one-shot job with no furniture in the house. What could go wrong?

The results were nauseatingly bad from a "professional" painting company, and to this day I still kick myself for making such a bad choice in picking the painters to hue our freshly-built home. The paint stains on the carpeting, railings, ceiling, doors and fixtures are constant reminders of dollars poorly spent.

Over the last few years, we have systematically re-finished most of the house properly, but it has been a long, slow, painful and costly process.

So as a company when a mistake is made with a high-profile project and the results are less than respectable, how should it be handled? Yes, costly mistakes can often be hard to recover from for any company. Diligent work from the beginning on who you are working with is always the best way to keep this from happening in the first place, but is it necessary to fix the mistake? In a word, yes.

Just because you spent $25k on a presentation or brochure, and it turned out poorly or actually makes your company look bad, that doesn't mean that you have to keep it. The reality is that something like that can do more damage to your brand and business than paying for the same thing twice, just to get it done the right way.

In a perfect world, you would never have to do anything a second time to get it done right, but none of us are perfect. Sometimes a bullet needs to be bit to get the proper results for your company.

And if you ever need your home painted, I can tell you who NOT to use.