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bad presentation day

December 13th, 2006

by Tony Chen

I just don't get it. Some days I am so "on" - everything goes well, my mind is clear, I think up the perfect opening joke on the spot, and I deliver a darn good presentation (if I do say so myself!). On other days, I just freeze, can't even put together a 6th-grade sentence together, try to recover by joking (only to utter an inappropriate joke), and then finish the presentation with that "oh-how-I-wish-I-could-have-that-one-back" feeling. Then I leave the room and the perfect opening line comes to my mind. oh well. Ever felt that?

Today was one of those days. I made a very short presentation to a group of 50-60 physicians. On paper, it was an easy presentation - one that I've done for other audiences many times. It was a great opportunity to make a good first impression to a lot of our physicians and have them become more engaged in new business development. Alas, I botched it big time (well, okay, it probably wasn't as bad as I think)

Instead of lamenting about this, let me share a story that my sister shared shortly after I got home.

My sister Phyllis is a concert pianist who studies under Andre Watts, a Grammy-winning world-renown concert pianist (who is also a wonderful guy). She heard him perform a piece recently that he had performed maybe 20-30 times in his career already. At age 60, with so much experience, he could have easily coasted through, right? What struck her the most as she listened to him perform was this feeling of not taking anything for granted, not being "comfortable" even after so much success, and being so viligant. In other words, she could tell that he prepared mentally for this performance just like he would have the very first time.

Now, there are a lot of differences between business presentations and piano performances. But one thing is the same - preparation, preparation, preparation.

By the way, the great Andre Watts once had a memory slip on that same piece. Right in the middle of the concert, he had to walk over to the conductor and ask the orchestra to start a section again. Even the best of us have our off days. What I need to learn from Andre is how to bounce back - I will have another chance next week.

I've made it one of my personal goals the next year to become a consistent and compelling presenter, and so I'm sure I'll have more to blog about. Let me know if you have any good tips on making great presentations again and again.


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