Last week Susan hit a presentation roadblock.
Susan is an excellent brand manager. She's strategic, thoughtful and well respected. Susan has a natural confident manner about her, including great verbal style. When Susan speaks, people listen.
But last week, it was different. While presenting to the executive team Susan hit a roadblock and froze.
Susan had been preparing for a major presentation with the executive team. The day before the meeting she asked me to review her proposal and give her any last input. She was confident she was ready.
The next day however, when Susan came in she was visibly nervous. She seemed unsure of herself and unfocused. The CFO sensing her lack of clarity, asked pointed question after pointed question. After 30 awkward and defensive minutes, Susan left with the proposal tabled for the following week.
Later I caught up to a confused and frustrated Susan. "I knew ready," she explained, "but right before the meeting, the Chief Marketing Officer emailed me and said that there was new technical input that would change my proposal. It caught me off guard, and I thought the executive team had better information than I had. I wasn't sure how to present my proposal."
One roadblock stopped Susan.
I asked Susan if she could have said the following, "I understand from John that you may have late breaking news that I don't know about. Before I jump in, tell me what you've heard, I may have to reassess my proposal."
Susan shook her head positively, "Yes! I could have facilitated the conversation even if there was new data."
The problem wasn't the presentation. The problem was the presenter: Susan thought her objective was to present her proposal regardless of the circumstances. Even though she knew her proposal may not fit the situation, she chose to present it anyway.
The role of the presenter is NOT to present material. The role of the presenter is to meet the needs of the audience.
If you hit a roadblock, you don't have to plow through it. Stop presenting, start navigating. Step back, assess the situation, and look at the big picture.
Be prepared to:
Switch gears from presentation mode to problem solving mode.
Change roles from presenter to facilitator, negotiator, peace maker, or whatever the situation requires.
Stop the presentation if you aren't meeting the audience's objective, or the flow takes an unexpected twist you can't handle.
Reschedule the meeting if your material is no longer relevant.
Roadblocks don't have to stop us.
You can lose control of the topic, but you don't have to lose control. Great presenters aren't just prepared to present, they have mastered the skills of reading their audience, meeting agility and adaptability.
And next time you hit a presentation roadblock it will be a detour, not a dead end, and you and your audience will reach the right destination.
Looking for more presentation tips? Here's a link to Perfect Pitch: Give your Voice a Confidence Makeover