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Got Discipline?

Got Discipline?

You've got a high-stakes presentation coming up. Maybe you're presenting to the board of directors, maybe you're rolling out a new initiative internally, maybe it's a pitch to a long sought-after prospect. The presentation is scheduled to take place one month from today. What do you do?

Unfortunately, if you're like most people, you think about it once in a while - maybe in the middle of the night - toss some ideas around, and move on to "more important stuff." About a week before, you start copying and pasting slides into your presentation.

"This slide was great when my colleague used it!" you think to yourself. "This one worked really well for that other presentation I did two years ago." And slowly but surely, your presentation is created.

A few days before the presentation is scheduled to take place, you click through the slides and think about what you'll say to each one. You do this a few times and decide you're ready.

[Related: Six Tips for Managing Presentation Butterflies]

The day of the presentation arrives and you stand in front of the board, or your company, or your long sought-after prospect and hear yourself talk through these slides (the ones you threw together weeks ago, clicked through a few times) for the very first time (in front of a real live audience).

Like being in a nightmare from which there is no awakening, you stumble from idea to idea, you discover in front of a real live audience that one of your slides is in the wrong place and another one (oh, no no no no no) doesn't even belong in this presentation.

You are sweating, panicking, increasingly miserable. All you want is for this to be over.

"Never again," you promise yourself as you slink out of the room. But then next time comes and the horrible scene replays itself all over again. Why?

You lack discipline, my friend.

[Related: Why Your PowerPoint Presentations Stink (No Offense)]

It requires discipline to begin working on your presentation at least 30 days out.

It requires discipline to begin by assessing your audience, thinking long and hard about who they are, what they care about, what's keeping them up at night, and what their goals are.

It requires discipline to think about your message based on this assessment.

It requires discipline to then create an outline and stick to it, refusing to allow any information that is not directly relevant to your main point and its supporting points to be a part of your presentation.

It requires discipline to practice out loud so that you know you have the information required, and in the right order.

And what does it take to then deliver this thoughtfully crafted, audience focused, well-rehearsed presentation? That part is easy; you need only bring your energy and enthusiasm.

Prepare to be overjoyed at the result. You'll nail it.

[Related: The Tipping Point: When Strategic Vision and Total Confidence Intersect]


Debbie Fay is the founder of Bespeak Presentation Solutions, LLC, providing one-on-one presentation coaching, presentation development, and communications training to businesses worldwide.

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