Prepared ConceptOn a recent business trip, I happened to be sitting next to a woman on the plane who was furiously working on a PowerPoint presentation that she had to present at an important scientific conference in a few days.

She was really nervous about making this presentation for three reasons:

  1. She was stepping in to rescue the program presenter and was replacing a speaker who had had to cancel virtually at the last minute.
  2. She was going to have to speak on a topic outside of her area of expertise, and she was concerned about jeopardizing her reputation in the field.
  3. The top dog, world famous big Kahuna in the field was going to be attending the conference, and he was well known for his less than kind critiques of other people in the field.

No wonder she was nervous!!!

With her permission, I gave her the following suggestions:

  1. Frame her remarks as coming from the perspective of someone who was stepping in for the acknowledged expert in this area. (A not so subtle reminder that she was courageously taking on this daunting task.)
  2. Invite those in attendance to fill in any important gaps in her remarks. (An invitation to share from a positive rather than from a critical stance.)
  3. Indicate that her outside status gave her tremendous respect for the research being done in the field. (Complimenting people on their efforts is always a good strategy.)
  4. Suggest that her bird’s eye view of the field gave her a perspective and some ideas that might be valuable for people in the field to consider. (People are generally much more open to suggestions than they are to orders.)
  5. Conclude by again encouraging those in attendance to share their thoughts, and to fill in any gaps in her presentation. (Again inviting positive rather than negative comments.)

This woman, who is a tenured professor at a very prestigious university, thanked me for my suggestions and said that she felt much more confident of a positive outcome, based on the ideas that I had shared with her.

My only regret is that I did not get her name and contact information so that I could find out how her speech actually went. (Another mystery of life.)