I've spent 11 years of my careers at one of the leading sales effectiveness consulting companies in the world; a small company with a big impact in its marketplace and a highly-skilled team of which I am proud to be a part. For most of my career, I have been involved in development of customized training programs for our clients, but about a year ago, I moved into a specialized sales support role.
This week was my company's second national sales meeting of the year, and I came to it feeling like I needed to prove myself. In our previous national sales meeting, in Boca Raton in January, I had been responsible for a portion of the meeting that, to put it mildly, was not well-received. I had written a series of training activities for our own sales force that very accurately mirrored their real-life client situations, but were judged to be very similar in focus to previous years' activities and not a good use of time.
At this Summers' meeting, I was asked to co-deliver a presentation introducing four new solutions. Although I have built credibility through my client and internal work, I felt like it was important for me to make a good presentation, especially with our new CEO; my new supervisor; a previous supervisor who has been a trusted mentor to me for many years; and of course our whole sales force present.
My problem? Although I collaborate extensively with clients over the phone and less frequently in person but enough to be very confident, but I had somehow never had to deliver a PowerPoint presentation to a live audience, despite being almost 40 years old and having worked in the sales performance consulting world for 11 years with a 5-year "break" in the middle of that in knowledge management and sales support at a very large management and technology consulting firm, and I was definitely feeling out of my comfort zone.
I had a 9:00am presentation, the second of the day, and so I opened with a few jokes -- wrapped within a brief introduction of myself and my career for the newer executives and sales reps -- to warm up the room and diffuse some of my own nervousness. I'll be honest, I brought the house down. As I moved into the informative portion of presentation, I could definitely feel some nervousness returning, but I think I did well enough and I got a lot of positive feedback. It's definitely something that I'm happy to have gotten through, and it will be less scary next time, but I know there's some for improvement:
1. I prepared my speakers' notes well in advance, but I wish that I had taken some time to practice in front of the room I would be presenting in. I'm not sure if that would have been possible this time or not.
2. I need to make my slides less wordy, so that I can look to them to briefly remind myself of my place if I need to, but not have to either "wing it" in how I summarize or look at my notes (which I had on my Kindle) as much as I did.
3. I had my speakers notes on my Kindle, as mentioned above, thinking I'd look a little cooler up there with a tablet rather than printed notes. I think old-school note cards would have been a better option than either.
A friend gave me some delivery skills pointers that I think will help me do a better job next time in calming down my body language to both appear and help myself feel less nervous, but I think it was really good for a first timer. The positive is that I felt exactly like I did when I was a 24 or 25 year-old junior consultant on needs assessment calls with clients. This is now a situation where I'm completely comfortable and confident, and I know I can get there in my presentation skills as well.
And, last but not least, running. I've not done well at getting enough miles in the July and August heat, but now that summer is winding down, it's time to get serious again. I had a very good four-miler on Saturday, and I ran 3 miles on Tuesday morning (on the hotel gym treadmill due to pouring rain) and three miles yesterday with a coworker in downtown Philadelphia, heading from our Center City hotel down the Ben Franklin Parkway to the Art Museum and back.
Of course we ran up the Art Museum steps. Adrian!!!!!!!!!!!! Aaaaaaaaaaaaadrian!