What Just Happened?
Most of us can relate to a time when we prepared for something and when we arrived, we quickly discovered we got ready for the wrong thing! It might have been a job interview where the interviewer didn’t ask you a single question that you had been prepared for. It might have been a presentation to your boss, and you find out right away that she had strong feelings against your idea. Times like this can really knock you off your game.
This happened to me with my recent presentation I put together for a class. How you respond at moments like this can be the difference between success and failure. Read about my experience and discover what can you do to ensure you stay successful in a situation that didn’t go as planned.
How It Started
I thought this was going to be a typical Tuesday morning workshop. I dropped the kids off at school, and I headed to the conference room where I was presenting my workshop. I knew attendance for the presentation was going to be a little lighter than usual, but I was determined to present the workshop as planned.
The workshop started as it usually does, with everyone sharing some recent wins. Everyone seemed excited about their successes, and you could feel the energy building with every story. Then I shared a few things I had come across in the previous week. To be honest, I was excited to share these ideas! I thought it would help to highlight some of the things I’d been presenting during my workshops. The few pieces of information I shared really resonated with everyone, and the discussions started to take off.
It Kept Going!
As the discussion continued, people were really started to gain a deeper understanding of what they were learning. They discovered relationships between, and parallels with what I was teaching, and what other leaders had shared with them. It was like the world was finally making sense. In fact, someone actually said “Oh, I finally see how this is all connected now!” What a moment! I was able to review past discussions and bring everything together as one cohesive message. Finally, our time was up. I had not covered anything I planned to discuss, and everyone that was there felt that it was the best presentation they had attended.
Doing a 60-minute presentation off the cuff can be dangerous, so why did this work so well?
Follow the Leader
The discussion worked so well because during this particular presentation, I let them lead. Sure it was my presentation, sure I was the “teacher”, but I gave them the wheel and let them steer the workshop. We were all going to the same place – to a place of better, more profound understanding. They wanted to take a different road to get there. I was flexible enough to go down the way they wanted to travel. I let them lead the discussion, and I participated. I could have forced them down the path I had planned, and I am sure they would have found value in that discussion. However, it was much more beneficial at that time to let them lead.
Many times, in our professional careers we run into situations like this. Perhaps you landed the perfect job interview. You prepared for everything you thought the interviewer would ask and practiced your answers until you felt comfortable. You might have even researched the company and put together some talking points you wanted to share to demonstrate how you’d be perfect for the job. Then, when you get to the interview, something happens. You’re asked questions you didn’t prepare for. Maybe the interviewer doesn’t allow you time to share your carefully crafted talking points. Or you might just forget what you wanted to say. It’s times like this you just need to relax and follow the leader. If you try to convince them to your point of view, or your expectations, you’ll only succeed in not landing the job.
The Boy Scouts motto says, “BE PREPARED.” It’s great advice, and rings true with everything. For example, when giving a presentation, you have to be prepared for anything. I mean everything, from a heckler (yes it can happen) to someone that just doesn’t get it and is asking really random questions. Technology failures can occur, and you don’t have the beautiful powerpoint presentation you prepared to keep you on track.
Being prepared means more than just having answers to interview questions,or a well put together slide deck. It means knowing your material inside and out, upside and down, and front and back. Being prepared means taking the lead when necessary, but also being comfortable to let someone else take the reins when the situation calls for it. When you are prepared and knowledgeable with your material, you can respond to any changes in circumstances. Responding keeps you in control, even when someone else is leading, and demonstrates your true professionalism.
This Week’s Challenge
This week’s challenge is to volunteer for something that you have not done before. This could be a project at work, or a community activity. Put as much preparation into the project as you can. Practice responding to questions, and unknown issues. The more you practice, the better you’ll be at dealing with the unknown.
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Quote of the Week
“When you react, you are giving away power. When you respond, you are staying in control of yourself.”
– Bob Proctor