Opportunities won, opportunities lost (and the importance of developing your presentation skills)

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csc ottawa
My final presentation as chair of the Ottawa Construction Specifications Canada chapter. Association participation has incredible value when you put the organization's interests ahead of your own.
event presentation
Speaking at a small event (not the one reported below). Done right, your presentations to small groups can lead to bigger things; done wrong, you can lose much bigger opportunities.

The association committee chair and successful entrepreneur made a special request. Could I attend one of his committee meetings to hear a guest speaker discussing the impact of an important issue, climate change, on the industry in our area?  I would write about the story in the association’s newsletter and our general circulation regional construction publication.

Although the meeting was outside my scope/regular schedule and the association staff had already mandated the publication’s content, I said “sure” because the committee chair really knows his stuff and has earned his stripes as an industry leader. We could always find space for worthy content.

Computer plugged in. Note taking at the ready . . . the initial speaker turned out not to be the guest, but his business partner. He would deliver a “brief introduction”.

Alas, the guest didn’t speak English as his first language, had failed to rehearse for time, and burned up well over half of the allocated speaking schedule. And he was delivering a sales pitch for his company’s services. His observations had little to do with the purported topic.

The true guest speaker then started his presentation. The committee chair had heard him speak at another gathering, with a headline speaker, and his follow-up observations there had been informative. He delivered a good presentation, folksy, avoiding repeating power-point words, and with some useful ideas.

But the introductory speaker had associated him as a business partner and the information, while somewhat useful, didn’t set off the “wow” chords — and couldn’t overtake the really bad introduction he had received.

After the two guests left the room, the committee chair asked members for their opinions. He, it turned out, was giving the guest speaker a test drive for a possibly much bigger gig — speaking to a major association-wide event. I heard the sighs in the room. “There’s nothing new here,” one person said. The chair agreed. “I don’t think this will work out. We’ll need to find someone else to be our speaker. Any suggestions?”

And so the opportunity died on the vine for what could have been a rewarding and (if done properly) business-building presentation.

What went wrong?

Undoubtedly, the introducer failed to understand truly his role and responsibilities, and he certainly didn’t check with the host to determine if his words would be worthy of the time he grabbed in an attempt at self-promotion. (He had something to say, which may have been worthwhile in other circumstances, but was way too intrusive and off-topic in this context.) He soured the stage for the main act, who couldn’t overcome the sloppy start.

(Because these observations are less-than-positive, I won’t name the speakers here in light of my policy not to negatively identify individuals or organizations in this blog.)

Take care. Remember that seemingly little and simple opportunities may lead to something much bigger, and blowing them with careless communications can result in lost business. Take your presentation skills seriously, even — and especially — when speaking to a small audience. You don’t want to fail like these guys did.

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