The importance of progress and practice
Two of my internet marketing classes (undergraduate and graduate) have recently completed their mid term progress presentations for client projects. I am always delighted with the creativity shown in their efforts. Whether it is the use of new technology, team dynamics or the learning opportunity to be more effective communicators – I am always delighted with the outcome of this review. This quarter (and I'm going to have to get used to saying semester in times to come) was no different. I had teams that had exceptionally detailed content (invariably always leading to longer than scheduled presentations – and dinged accordingly), exceptional communicators that might do more to bring out their fellow presenters (so as not to appear too top heavy), to eloquent performances from students I don't normally hear from in class discussions (which always surprises me and delights me at the same time). I also adopt a different than normal approach towards eliciting student feedback on a teams performance. Rather than students cramming a few extra seconds into remedying problems with their presentations just noted in the wrath that is 'nasty Neil' I enforce a no tinkering rule. I also ask students to provide individual feedback on every performance – in written format – so that those presenting get to hear what they need to from their peers. There is no slacking off on my side either, usually a page of notes on questions asked, problems noted, weakness of concepts applied or lack of detail. Over the years I have come to note the problems with listening to student presentations where the only real outcome is normally a shared sense of relief that the process is OVER and that normal business (listening to lectures and participating in discussions on client solutions) can resume. My issue with that is that students then go on to make the same mistakes in front of clients. Therefore the importance of progress, progression of style, format and content is emphasized. Many problems usually noted can be alleviated with old fashioned practice. Practice, practice, practice. Other features of my own approach that I believe helps students in the afterlife that is a career:
- ABSOLUTELY NO NOTES OF ANY KIND. If you don't know your stuff – you shouldn't be presenting.
- Professionalism at all times. Speak the language of someone that cares and knows their stuff.
- Remember that you yourself are being marketed. Smile – thank people for participating, control the audience.You are on stage – and you ARE being watched closely. How do you want to be remembered?
- In the words of the famous philosophers The Wonder Pets – what's gunna work? TEAM WORK! Look at each other – look enthusiastic! refer to one another and pass seemlessly between speakers. Don't let one member run away with the presentation, work your team as effectively as you can – top and tail with strong speakers, but make sure the WHOLE team looks like winners.
- ANSWER THE QUESTION. Someone is always going to throw you a curve ball (apparently these are rather difficult to hit with an object – like a bat). Know how to respond. DO NOT waffle an answer that you hope bored your questioner to death. You are likely to be shot, or fired – or both.
- BY ALL MEANS USE A FAKE PC. But always make sure it plays nicely with the overhead projection system – otherwise, people will laugh at you (a. for owning a fake pc, and b. because you are likely to be shot, or fired – or both if it doesn't work).
- HAVE YOUR SECRET GET OUT OF JAIL FREE CARD to answer ANYTHING, or at least deflect the difficult question being asked. You could say for instance, interesting question, we've struggled with the answer and we arent there yet – do you have any suggestions? My own though is far more effective – but unfortunately for you it's a secret.
Seems a great shame to me that as marketers we don't spend more time talking about personal branding issues, and of course presentations and communication are central to the personal platform. One final painful piece of advice that I'll offer freely – if you can, video yourself and your teams performance. There is nothing more sobering, nor more useful, than watching oneself in action. Just ask Winnie, Tuck or Ming Ming.
Dr Hair is an Associate Professor of Marketing at the E Philip Saunders College of Business at RIT.
© 2011 – 2012, Dr Neil Hair. All rights reserved.