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.

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