Yesterday I was out on the shooting range with a good friend. We shot rifles in .22 Magnum, 223 Remington (with his delightful Colt AR) and 357 Magnum calibers. The sun shone down while a gentle breeze stirred the warm air. It was perfect weather, perfect companionship and we enjoyed a truly pleasurable day.
What does this have to do with you making presentations? What value do you get from my day on the shooting range? Read on and I will explain, I promise.
Back in South Africa, I was an active member of a full-bore, high power target rifle shooting club. The photo above was taken on this shooting range. The objective of full-bore target shooting is to consistently shoot accurately at long ranges that vary from 300 yards to 1000 meters. Many factors affect your ability to shoot accurately at these ranges, including the wind, your ammunition, your rifle and other equipment.
One Saturday morning, with the African sun showing no mercy, my weathered instructor told me in his gruff voice "Wayne, you have to learn to pull the trigger". I thought he meant that there exists a secret technique to pulling the trigger, but this is not what he meant at all. I came to learn that once a target is in sight, you only have about 2 seconds of opportunity to pull the trigger and take the shot before fatigue sets in or the wind changes.
In other words, you cannot take aim for an extended period before you pull the trigger. When the time is almost right, you must pull the trigger and live with the consequences. To continue aiming after you should have pulled the trigger is dysfunctional and your results show that you missed the window of opportunity.
When you are preparing for your presentations, you also have to learn to pull the trigger. How do you do this so that you take aim pull the trigger and deliver your presentation?
Firstly, when you prepare your presentation, define what the audience needs to know about the message that you are communicating. Then deliver that information. Do not try to communicate all the information that you have about this topic. Take aim at what you want to communicate, and pull the trigger.
Secondly, when you are creating handouts for your audience and your slide show, remember that "Done is better than perfect". You will quickly get to the point where your handouts are very good, your slides are acceptable and your speech structure is good. Now you need to be ready to pull the trigger.
If you continue to improve your presentation at this point, you are in danger of taking aim for too long and starting to waste valuable. time. When your presentation handouts, slides and speech are nearly ready for delivery, then you are probably ready to move on.
Thirdly, while you are getting ready to go on stage before the presentation, go through your normal warm-up routine. Walk around to warm up your muscles and release some tension. Warm up your voice by talking to people in your audience and doing vocal warm-up exercises. Then pull the trigger and go in front of your audience to deliver your message. I have heard presenters use phrases to remind themselves that it is time for the delivery, such as "Here I go, and let the chips fall where they may" and "It's show time baby".
Lastly, while you are in front of your audience, while you are presenting your message, go ahead with your presentation. If you forget a story or don't make a point as strongly as you wanted to, then don't agonize over it. Keep going.
The advice from my weathered instructor under the brutal South African sun, proved valuable to other members of the target shooting club as well. The successful target shooters commented how they each learned to take aim, pull the trigger, and fire. Time and time again, my instructor would point out the less successful shooters taking aim, adjusting the aim, taking aim, adjusting the aim, pulling the trigger, firing and often missing the target.
The results in our shooting competitions proved that you have a higher success rate when you learn to pull the trigger when the short window of opportunity opens, not as the window of opportunity is closing.
Take the lesson from a shooting range in Pretoria, South Africa into your presentation: Take aim at getting your message across to your audience, pull the trigger when you define your message, as you prepare, while you deliver your message.
I believe that you will be far more successful than the presenters who take aim, adjust aim, take aim, adjust aim, pull the trigger and miss the target.
Now, it is time to pull the trigger and publish this blog posting ...
Labels: Work/Life balance