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  • Carla Collis Gesite

On Performing and Dog & Pony Shows...

Last week, my client, Sarah (not her real name), lamented, "I have a dog and pony show coming up with senior management.  Just thinking about it drives my blood pressure up. When I get up to present, it's like I become a different person.  I fidget, forget what I'm going to say, stumble over my words. Jeez. Why can't I treat it like any other presentation?"

We've all been there, right?  You're up front ready to give your presentation. The room starts filling up with high-powered execs in dark suits. And you begin to sweat, feeling the pressure to put on a good show...Are you sweating now, just thinking about it?

What to do?  You might picture the audience in their underwear.  (Never tried that one.  It'd probably cause me to have a giggling fit, or worse, to run from the room!) Chances are, you're following other tried-and-true tips, like preparing well and rehearsing, visiting the room before presentation time and greeting people when they come into the room. But what else can you do to stave off the nervousness?  Well, there is one thing, one  little shift in perspective that's made a huge difference for me.

Let's pick back up with Sarah.  Our conversation continued something like this...

Carla:  When you’re in front of senior management, who are you focused on?

Sarah:  The audience, the managers.

Carla:  Really...?

A long pause. I wondered if she was going to change her answer.  And, then she had her lightbulb moment...

Sarah:  No.  I’m actually focused on myself.  Which isn’t what I want at all! My goal is to give the managers insights to move the company forward.  I've been so focused on myself and how I'm doing that I've lost sight of the reason for doing the presentation in the first place. 

Sarah sounded relieved.  She saw the value of putting the spotlight on the audience instead of herself.  

Her presentation went well.  It turns out that shifting your focus to the audience leads to a better overall presentation...

  • She was less nervous.

  • She connected more with the audience, rather than performing for them.

  • The audience got more value from the presentation because they were more engaged than in the past.

So, next time you feel yourself getting nervous before a 'dog and pony show,' imagine everyone in their underwear...Not really!  Just connect with that audience and watch your presentation get rave reviews.


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