I love to present. Love the Big Show, the Dog & Pony, the Old Razzle Dazzle ’Em. Occupational hazard for marketing folks, I guess, but it’s something I’ve always enjoyed and (not coincidentally) done pretty well.
Early in my experience leading teams, I had just given such a show, revealing a big new initiative to a company-wide audience with great fanfare and focus. I was on my game and the meeting went great. Afterward I approached a more seasoned executive for some “feedback,” meaning I wanted him to tell me I was awesome.
“Boy, you’re really great at that, but I know how you could be 10 times more effective,” he said.
Bruised but enrapt, I said, “How?”
“In any room,” he said, “there are a handful of people who are really key to moving the room as a whole. Before a PowerPoint presentation, you should invest some time getting those key people on board with your idea. Then you can go into the meeting already knowing you have their support when you reveal your ‘big idea’ to the larger audience. By getting those 10 people on board ahead of time, you’ll be dramatically more effective when you present, and get dramatically more buy-in when you’re done.”
Then, he hit me with a piece of advice I’ll never forget:
“Leadership isn’t about what you can do in front of the room, Mike. That’s a great tool, of course, but it’s not what really makes things happen. Leadership is a series of one-on-one conversations, and that’s where you should focus more of your time and attention.”
Simple sentence, huge impact. The older I get, the more I see it:
Leadership is a series of one-on-one conversations.
You can aggregate them. You can follow them up, solidify, and institutionalize them with grander gestures before bigger audiences in larger rooms.
But it all starts with identifying the most important people who are going to be in those rooms, and making sure they’re on board BEFORE they’re sitting there wondering what you’re about to say.
No presentation is ever going to be as impactful as a one-on-one conversation between two fully engaged human beings.
Nothing tops the power of looking someone in the eye, sharing your ideas, listening carefully, and having the chance to respond as necessary to effect a change in perception.
Next time you’re getting ready for The Big Presentation, leash your dog and unsaddle your pony a few days beforehand. Make it a point to identify and talk to the individual people whose opinions will move that room before you go try and move it yourself, and I promise you’ll be a lot more effective in doing so.