Wednesday, August 15, 2007


I often help people with presentations, and I've noticed that those who rehearse seem to be those who do better. Now Garr Reynolds of Presentation Zen has done an excellent job of explaining the creative process of presenting ideas to others in his Steve Jobs and the art of the swordsman.

Note the two keys to presentation success:

  • Intense rehearsal in a team setting
  • Absolutely no attention to technique or form in the actual presentation

Reread Garr's comments, if you need to, and note comments such as, "...once we allow our mind to drift to thoughts of success and failure or of outcomes and technique while performing our art we have at that moment begun our sure decent." [sic]

How can we possibly get through a presentation while following the second key? By following the first key until we have internalized what we want to say, how we want to say it, how others will hear it and respond, and what we can do if something goes differently than we expect. Then we have to rehearse it some more.

As someone once noted, we often rehearse something until we get it right. That means we may have done it wrong 20 times and right once; which do you think will stick with us better?

I think the same thing applies in other areas of our professional lives, and I think Dietrich Dörner and Harald Schaub might agree. That's why I wrote A somewhat unified view of decision making: to suggest the importance of spending time wrestling with what we do at a time that's apart from the actual doing. Whether we use computer simulation, scenario planning, role playing, or something else, the opportunity to rehearse what we do professionally before we do it and to learn from what we actually do afterwards to improve for next time is exceedingly valuable. And it's the cyclic action learning that helps us improve and helps keep us from getting fixated on a bad idea.

If you're still thinking of presentations, check out Garr's presentation tips.

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