Lessons from Presenting

Last week I had a long and challenging presentation to give. Here’s some lessons that I take away from that experience:

Blogging helped: all the ideas in my keynote had been explored out loud before on this blog. It is so much easier to put together a big presentation when you have ideas that you have worked up, shared and discussed with others. Where I saw gaps in the presentation, I even blogged them to make sure I had worked out what I wanted to say.

Networks helped: a fortnight out from the talk I lost confidence that what I had to say was worth saying. I asked my Change Agent Worldwide colleagues for advice. As ever they were wonderful encouraging me to speak to my passions, tell stories and be practical.

A Role Models helps:: Looking for a role model to emulate, I studied Nilofer Merchant’s TED talk. At once, I saw a way to connect quickly with the audience and to advance my presentation.

Structure helped:With days to go I had my content, but a mess of a presentation. I went back to first principles and used Barabara Minto’s pyramid principle to rebuild the presentation. I discovered my issue. I had forgotten to explicitly make & support my main point. It sounds obvious but your point can get lost in all the action & theatrics. Fixing that helped.

Practice helped: All the way along I had been practising and refining the pitch. There was one more glitch. The night before I delivered the talk I felt my stories were like a laundry list and not very practical. As I grappled with this I realised I needed to add a pattern to help the audience follow the stories. I settled on Idea>Story>So What>Extended Story. This pattern forced me to make the ‘so what’ real in another story of the same organisation. That was good discipline and helped the flow.

Preparation Helps:Because of all the changes I need not have time to commit my talk to memory. I created a bullet point list of key points, lines and transitions. This enabled me to iron out kinks and simplify again. I was very nervous when I woke but the preparation gave me confidence it couldn’t be too bad. Thankfully my nerves vanished as I began to speak.

The audience enjoyed the talk. I couldn’t have been more thrilled that the message connected and people had idea to take away and try.

Practices vs Procedures

I have been asked by a few people who have seen the slides only whether the audience at The Change Management Institute found my talk practical. At first the question made no sense to me. How could a talk recommending four well documented practices not be practical?

Some of the issue is missing the text of the talk. You don’t get the whole story through pictures without the accompanying stories and discussion.

Then I realised the point of the question. In the presentation I talked about moving away from rigid process to adaptive learning. It would have been inconsistent with that theme to outline a 5-8 step procedure. The practices I recommended are about fostering mastery. The involve choices and learning. They are not procedures to be executed.

We are so used to the process mindset that a process is seen as the only practical option. I am very pleased the members of the Change Management Institute embraced new practices and saw the potential to learn and adapt through practice.

Learning and adaptation is the only practical way forward.

Change Management Institute – CMI Disrupt Conference 11-12 November

The following Q&A was prepared for the CMI Disrupt Conference in Sydney and London on 11-12 November


Conference Speaker – Simon Terry disrupts


What does the future of change look like?

The power of digital disruption is in its power to leverage learning at scale and speed. If we consider our stakeholders as individuals, who we work with and learn from, things change radically. We need to start to apply these new ways of working throughout our organisations.

Are we being replaced by robots?

Automation and mechanisation have been disruptive throughout human history. But in the past, people were only considered inputs to production. But now we have real alternatives. Enabled by digital tools, we can focus on creativity to realise human potential. That’s shifting the game, from one of simple mechanical efficiency to human effectiveness.

How do we change our approach?

Start small. Start now. Start at the edges, with change agents, positive deviants inside and outside the organisation. Look out for rapid and dynamic influences which force change. Adapt and be accountable. Work with and through your people.

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