By Phil Stella
Without waiting for an answer, he indicated that some of the executives from Glitztronics were in for a project status review meeting. Andy, the team lead, had just called in sick, so Bob asked you to fill in and do a five-minute quickie overview for them … right now. “After all,” he said, “you’re the senior member of the project team anyway.”
Instant stress, panic, and fear would overtake most people in a similar situation. They couldn’t say no but would be terrified that they’d blow it and look foolish in front of their clients … and their boss. Not Emma … she’s a real pro at workplace presentations.
Impromptu presentations can be the workplace communicator’s worst nightmare … if you let them. But having a “what if” plan for just such emergencies can save the day. Here’s what Emma did. First, she took a deep breath, smiled at Bob and told him she’d be happy to help out with a tone of confidence and even appreciation. She then asked him what three or four brief talking points he wanted her to discuss and who specifically would be in the room. She jotted down some quick notes and followed him down the hall.
Bob briefly introduced Emma, indicating she was filling in for the absent Andy. She welcomed the clients, said she was delighted to give them a brief project status and discuss its background, current activity, and next series of milestones. Then, she did a very smart thing … she asked them if that agenda worked for their needs and if anyone had any specific questions they wanted to make sure got addressed.
Since she hadn’t even seen Andy’s slides, she didn’t use any. She simply did a brief review of the project and asked if they had any other questions. In her quick summary, she thanked them again for the opportunity to work with Gliztronics and said she looked forward to their next project status meeting.
So, you can all learn from a pro like Emma and tame your Impromptu Dragon. Have a basic structure in mind that can quickly adapt to most any topic and quickly decide on content points and support facts as you walk down the hall. Project confidence, enthusiasm, and enjoyment, especially if you’re faking it, and never let them see you sweat.
Hey … it worked very well for Emma, the dragon slayer. She got applause from the clients and glowing comments from Bob, who didn’t forget her stepping up efforts at performance review time.
Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication and empowers business leaders to communicate confidently. A popular trainer and executive coach on workplace communications and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty at the University of Phoenix and the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative.