Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Presentations: One Size Does Not Fit All

Along with several other consultants, I recently received an email asking if I'd be interested in conducting a leadership program for a large company. Normally that would have elicited some interest because I teach leadership workshops but this one had a catch: I had to teach their leadership workshop.

The message made it sound as if teaching a program that was developed by someone else would be easier. After all, I wouldn't have to prepare a class from scratch. I could just walk in and start talking.


If you've ever taught a class you know the problems hidden in that assumption and if you've ever had to teach someone else's program, you're especially aware of how hard that can be. The organization and pacing may be off, the terminology may be different, and the program may include some exercises you wouldn't use. In other words, it probably won't fit.

The assumption about simplicity resembles those made regarding short speeches. A short presentation can be much more difficult than a long one because you have less time to cover key points and yet that reduced content still has to reach the same number of people in an effective manner.

What should you do if you are ever compelled to fill in for another speaker? My advice is to break the rules. Reorganize the presentation so it fits your style of presentation. If you fail to do so, your speech will - to borrow a line from Earl Long - look like socks on a rooster.

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