time's up

figuring out who should buy your business

Ready. Ready. Ready. Ready. Aim. Fire.

I’m confident anyone reading these words has made a presentation that went sideways. Hey, nothing personal but surely – like me – you’ve bombed before. Terri Sjodin is here to help with her brand new book, Presentation Ready. She invites us to “think of it as a checkup with 12 painless remedies of preventative or curative medicine” and the diagnostics are legit, friends. Working closely over five years with researchers at San Diego State University, Sjodin combines the statistical analysis of self-reported errors with her three-plus decades spent training professionals in persuasion to instruct on sharpening our games. The book is neatly divided into three equal parts: Case, which is the core message; Creativity, which factors how that will resonate; and Delivery, or performative execution. It’s a couple hundred pages overall including summaries, charts, and checklists for those who may prefer a bottom-line package.

Sjodin clobbers us out of the gate with the most egregious mistake, winging it. Fun fact: That’s a 19th century term from the theatre to describe understudies cramming off stage on the chance they’d be called upon in a pinch. What’s our excuse when we’re granted days or even weeks to prepare for a talk? Survey says… Bzzzzt! Presenters who rely on game-day charm may not appreciate the power of weaving in logic, reason, and facts and likely don’t anticipate the need to secure a follow-up step. [Challenge: When one of your people says a meeting “went great,” ask yourself – and them – what the hell that even means and what happens next?] The various scenarios the author intertwines alongside each Presenter’s Confession/Listener’s Observation bring the message home to roost. These are, after all, our peers reflecting on the mistakes that cost them, sometimes dearly, whether trying to win a new opportunity or retain an existing one. Suggestions on creativity force the reader to take an assignment more seriously by listening to podcasts, reading journals, evaluating other speakers, and a half-dozen more helpful ideas. It’s work, sure yet time well invested.

Best of all is Sjodin’s admonishment that a speech be scrutinized using a preview process. Rather than just showing up and hoping things go well, readers are encouraged to go through a pregame walk-through including another set of eyeballs. She writes: “Just record yourself delivering your presentation, and then watch the talk with a trusted friend or colleague who is willing to be candid.” She calls this a fact-finding mission to objectively identify key problems to be corrected in advance. This way, we solve for pitch, intonation, rate, and volume issues and not come off argumentative & cocky at one extreme or lacking confidence & energy at the other. Uncomfortable as it may be, you are to “gracefully accept feedback, sifting through what is helpful and relevant to your situation and discarding what won’t work for you.” Pick and choose. A wise person once said, if the career you’ve chosen to feed your family involves some level of sales, you damn well ought to do what it takes to perform at a high level. This book helps professionals do just that. Let’s get busy.

If you have anything to say about this – or book recommendations – kindly post below (rather than emailing me) to spark conversation. Thank you!

2 comments for “Ready. Ready. Ready. Ready. Aim. Fire.

Comments are closed.