Slaying the Impromptu Dragon
Does just the thought of impromptu public speaking make you sweat? Here are four steps to help you tackle presentations so that you’re never caught off guard again.
Has this ever happened to you? Emma arrived at work early, got a cup of coffee and settled into tackling her highest priority task of the day. When, out of nowhere, her boss Bob approached her cubicle and asked the question that strikes fear in the hearts most employees, “Hi Emma...you busy?”
Without waiting for an answer, he indicated that some of the executives from Glitztronics were in for a project status review meeting. Andy, the team lead, had just called in sick, so Bob asked her to fill in and do a five-minute quickie overview for them—right now. “After all,” he said, “you’re the senior member of the project team anyway.”
Instant stress, panic and fear would overtake most people in a similar situation. They couldn’t say no, but would be terrified that they’d blow it and look foolish in front of their clients and their boss. But not Dragon Slayer Emma—she’s a real pro at workplace presentations.
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Impromptu presentations can be the workplace communicator’s worst nightmare, if you let them. But, having a “what if” plan for just such emergencies can save the day.
Here’s what Emma did to slay the impromptu dragon—and how you can, too:
Slay the dragon step no. 1: React calmly. Emma first took a deep breath, smiled at Bob and told him she’d be happy to help out—exhibiting a tone of confidence and even appreciation.
Slay the dragon step no. 2: Find out the details. Emma then asked Bob what three or four brief talking points he wanted her to discuss and who specifically would be in the room.
Slay the dragon step no. 3: Gather your thoughts and get to it. Finally, Emma jotted down some quick notes and followed Bob down the hall.
Slay the dragon step no. 4: Continue acting confident. Emma projected not only confidence throughout her presentation, but also enthusiasm over the project and the client.
After Bob introduced Emma and indicated she was filling in for the absent Andy, it would be an accurate description to say she had them at “hello.” She welcomed the clients, said she was delighted to give them a brief project status and discuss its background, current activity and next series of milestones. She asked them if that agenda worked for their needs and if anyone had any specific questions they wanted to make sure got addressed. Since she hadn’t even seen Andy’s slides, she didn’t use any; she simply did a brief review of the project and asked if they had any other questions. In her quick summary, Emma thanked them again for the opportunity to work with Glitztronics and said she looked forward to their next meeting.
So, you can all learn from a pro like Emma and Slay your Impromptu Dragon. Have a basic structure in mind that can quickly adapt to most any topic and quickly decide on content points and support facts as you walk down the hall. Project confidence, enthusiasm and enjoyment, especially if you’re faking it, and never let them see you sweat.
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Hey, it worked very well for Emma. She got applause from the clients and glowing comments from Bob, who didn’t forget her stepping up at performance review time.
Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com,440-449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.