I have said that the first casino company I worked for was awesome because they developed me. They brought me along. I was given opportunities that were beyond me, and given mentors to learn from. I had a really good career there. As I was exposed to other companies, I realized not everyone does this.
Today, I had that kind of day at my current employer. I was given the opportunity to develop new behaviors, become aware of some skill gaps, and in the long run, be a better leader.
I am considered a fairly successful speaker/trainer/facilitator. I worked hard at it years ago with my first training job, was open to feedback anyone would give me on my presentations, and have never forgotten the best piece of advice I was given when presenting: Have I earned the right to be in front of that group today? That means, did I prepare? Understand their roles? Understand what their day is like? Understand what they see and hear and think on the job – where are the constraints, etc. I know my material, I anticipate questions, and I often do some discretionary research so I can drop in interesting facts or stories. (Did you know Bill Harrah was the first person to put carpet on the casino floor? Did you know the creator of the DiSC profile created the lie detector test? Fun facts!) Recently, I’ve given a string of key note addresses to large internal groups of leaders. My presence was specifically requested.
That last sentence sounds braggy. I don’t mean it. I say it to illustrate the point that I am considered to be a successful speaker.
Guys. I’m not that great.
For the last two days I’ve been in an intense “speaking with impact” workshop. The audience was a small group of Sr. Consultants or Business Directors. There were eight presentations recorded, three 1-1 feedback sessions, 3 in the moment group feedback sessions, seven on the fly presentations, one planned presentation and did I mention the recordings?
I have recorded myself before. I have had job interviews that were audition based and I recorded myself before those to watch and learn. At Prosci training this past February we were recorded and did group playback. I get it. It’s effective.
New groups of peers do intimdate me. There were some presentations I felt I could barely string two sentences together because I was also focused on posture, gesture, volume, inflection, what I do with my face, the weird thing my eyes do while I’m talking, how much I’m walking around the front of the room and how much “eye connection” (not eye contact – that is soo last season) I’m making.
I used to think I was good. Then I saw the tapes. Now, I just think I have a lot of quirky presentation qualities. But none more obnoxious (to me) than the T-Rex arms. I gesture a lot with my hands, but I keep my elbows locked at my sides. All I could see was this scene from the movie Meet the Robinsons:
To this day I still refer to poorly thought out plans as “little arms plans.”
So much of the advice and guidelines the facilitators gave was familiar. I know that some of it I’ve heard before. I had this moment where I thought, “I’ve forgotten more about great presenting than some people will ever know!” They did this bit about handling hostile/resistant meeting participants and that’s my thing! I was the best at coaching leaders on handling resistance. I wrote the model for my last casino company! I can talk about that with some sense of expertise. Until I got in front of this group.
Ultimately, it’s good news. I have some very actionable things to work on. I have increased awareness.
I realize I’ve started to speak like I write. It doesn’t take long to realize I write run on sentences, use a lot of ands, elipses, and parenthetical references. Other than the t-rex arms, that is what I’m taking away the most. Create more, succinct sentences. Stop adding connector words and phrases.
“You know what the trick is?
You gotta make it shorter!” (One of my most quoted Sports Night bits – just for fun.)