I was called to a meeting this week with a Board Chair, a CEO, and a Senior VP. My role, I thought, was to be a resource and to answer any questions that might come up. That’s not the way things turned out.
I hadn’t prepared a presentation, I had no PowerPoint, but I was required to present a persuasive and intelligent argument. My credibility was suddenly put on the line. Here’s how I got through it.
First of all, I had already been assessing my “audience”, which was made up of all the other people in the room, from the moment I had walked into the office. This was a no-nonsense crowd with a lot on their plate. They would not want to feel that their time was being wasted.
I had been paying attention before I was called on to speak and noticed the way information was being presented and, most importantly, the degree of detail that seemed to be required.
There was a definite hierarchy in the room and I was certain that I was at the bottom of it so I watched the way others were interacting and how that interaction was being received. I needed to know how much I would be able to push back if that became necessary.
All of those things I did even though I didn’t think I would be making a presentation. Preparation allows us to be spontaneous and we should always be ready to present.
In my public speaking courses, students sometimes ask how to prepare for the impromptu speaking occasions when they are called upon to present information and haven’t had time to prepare.
Unfortunately, there is no formula that will work in every occasion. The key to success, though, is to pay attention and assume that you might have to talk at any time. Then you can quickly answer the three questions that form the basis of all successful presentations;
- Why am I giving this presentation?
- Who am I speaking to?
- What does that audience need to hear in order for me to be successful?
Those are the technical elements that come into play. But most people are afraid of public speaking and their performance reflects their discomfort. If you are called upon to speak when you least expect it, you must commit yourself to the task and that takes something that can’t be taught;