How prepared are you in using stories in presentation? And do you have the gut?

I attended a big conference call this week. Well, you know how boring conference call can be, especially those with over 10 people and wide spectrum of topics (Why is big conference call boring? I think it goes back to the essence of a good communication i.e. you need interaction. You simply do not have enough air time for all to speak, which is the only interaction medium in a conference call.)

Having said that, there was a UK lady in the call who gave an impressive briefing (almost a speech since it was so polished). She started with a story about her son, and then related it to her topics, and at last summarized with the same story. More importantly, she impressed me by finishing her entire briefing in 20 minutes, exactly the duration indicated in the agenda.

Let’s not think about what (whether too much) preparation she made, but focus on the effect. Her performance impressed me a lot, and I believe it also impressed to most (for those who was listening) in the call. In the future, I will associate her name with ‘preparedness’, ‘articulate’, ‘good communication’. A very effective way to perform and gain reputation in a community, which help gather collaboration and help our work)!!

I then think of her preparation (always the key in any form of presentation). She probably has scripted her speech, well, at least in bullet points. And she must have rehearsed as well in order to have such a good control in time. In addition, she really has spent time selected her stories and practiced telling it. Adding altogether, I guess it may take at least 30 minutes. Well, it may not worth the while for everyonel. But it is definitely worth us to keep it as an option – when you have to build reputation, or when the audience is very important.

And a question to me (or to you as well) – why haven’t I done it at all before?

Another thought out of this call is the gut in telling a story in such a high level conference call. Hey, everyone is so serious talking about business, with all those high-sounding jargons e.g. strength-based, retention, value-added, matrix…. Do you dare to tell a story relating to your son? I guess this all goes back to how much you believe the power of story, and how much you are willing to take risk. I think for me the latter question relates to me more. I do believe story help to draw attention and retain memory. And if I take some risk, give it a try though others may think otherwise, get used to it, it will be fine. Yes, it is the risk-averse attitude which is the obstacle.

As I shared with the others in the class, one can only acquire a skill if he / she takes the risk to use it. Open your mind, and do what you believe. Also, as Steve Job said, ‘Stay foolish, stay hungry!!’

Using the Speaking Note

The offsite went alright. The mat activity fitted well with the objective of the offsite, and the timing was good. More importantly, I do learnt something new (or I should say, I learnt an ‘area of improvement’ for myself!!) – about the use of speaking note.

I prepared speaking notes of palm-size, big font, bullet-points speaking notes. Well, very much the ‘correct’ design of speaking notes as what most will believe. However, the notes did not help much at the end. Why? Because I did not read it at all on the spot!!!

So many things were happening during that 45 mins, and thus I did not read the notes at all. What was the consequence? I missed to mention that there will be prize for the game, ask those who have played the game to come up, and more importantly invite the bosses for observation comment!! Yeah, not detrimental… but I wished I did not miss and could do it better….

My learning is that:

· I got to prepare more. More time to rehearse so that I can memorize the key points naturally, despite the chaos in the ‘real’ environment;

· I got to practice to use note. I got to conquer the “odd feeling” in taking time to read the notes. I should try to make note for the next class, and use it (even though I may not actually need it)

(The mountain on the picture is the 玉龙雪山. It was taken from a window in the hotel. Sadly, the offsite was so packed that I spent 98% of my time in the hotel.

Rehearsing for the LiJiang 丽江 off-site meeting

The offsite meeting next Mon and Tue will be the first occasion when I facilitate large scale team building activities. I have been asking around to gather thoughts and suggestions on which activities would be more applicable for the occasion – not easy. To prepare better, I had my colleagues done a trial run in the office today.

Whilst I thought I already had a pretty good idea of how to run the activities, I was quite surprised to realize all the ‘holes’ when I trial-ran today. My learning is:

· Always rehearse (always true) – especially the important occasion;

· During the de-brief, everyone will have the tendency to go too fast. I should leave longer “pause” to push for thinking, summarize the points raised by the others and asking more prompting questions. (These sound natural but when you have to do it on the foot…..you are just so wary of dead air.)

· Help them to imagine ‘back’ the real work. Give them a specific situation e.g. “imagine what will happen in the office on Wed – the 300 red emails on your laptop, the outstanding BCAs for you to read and support, the ……”

Good luck to me in Li-Jiang!!