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Passion, People and Principles

Planners and Performers

post # 352 — April 12, 2007 — a Client Relations post

This blogpost continues this week’s series on making presentations. See here and here.

There’s a spectrum of presentation styles, between planners and peformers.

I’m the latter.

Personally, I have difficulty sometimes working with and through human resource and training departments who, when we’re working on putting together seminars or speeches, want to:

  • Specify learning objectives
  • Develop a teaching plan
  • Identify in advance every slide that is going to be used, in which order
  • Know which questions are going to be asked of the group at which point
  • Otherwise establish a fixed methodology or flow for the session

I know these people are doing their job, and that many of them are highly trained in “adult learning.” I also clearly see the need to capture the content, the process and the flow when a company or firm is trying to roll out a program which is going to be delivered many times in different locations.

I just find it hard to slot my delivery style into such a structured, planned approach.

I’m prepared to be accountable for achieving goals when making presentations: I just hate being locked in specifying in advance exactly what’s going to be said, in what order. I never know that until the (interactive) performance begins.

I can also work with “planners” to help THEM develop programs that can be given (by others) multiple times.

But when the stage lights go up and the curtain rises, it’s a performance! With all the strengths and uncertainties that are implied by that word.

By the way, this doesn’t only apply to formal seminars. For me, it applies to all client meetings: I prepare, but I stop way short of preparing a fixed, formal presentation. Even there, I take the performing approach, rather than the (structured – ‘who’s going to say what when?’) planned approach.

Does anyone have experience or insight as to how to capture the benefits of both approaches?


Tim Khaner said:

Interesting topic for me, David. I spent 30 years as a professional “performer’ – a classical musician. Some of the keys to a great performance is that it must seem spontaneous and and reactive to the audience – but the ability to pull that off really comes from thorough preparation and planning. When a performer is not entirely comfortable with the material, it’s hard to be spontaneous and not simply seem unprepared. But good planning leaves one the option of varying the intended performance without losing the essential train of thought. So I don’t think your options of “planner OR performer” are sufficient to explain the dynamic. You are able to appear to free-wheel only because you really know your stuff and are keeping track of the big picture as you go. You have done all the planning – perhaps in a less structured way, over many years.

posted on April 12, 2007

Linas Simonis said:

David, you absolutely right.

My point is, that it is no two equal audiences.

When best performers are performing (not delivering, PERFORMING), they always hear audience and tailor a little bit presentation. When you prepare, you newer know reaction of audience, you newer know what brilliant idea will come during presentation.

In my life I newer had two equal presentations, even when I was presenting with PowerPoint slides.

Audience always makes difference.

And this is LIVE show, not prerecorded appearance.

posted on April 12, 2007

Ted Harro said:

I tend to agree with Tim above. I do a lot of strategic facilitation with senior leadership teams. These sessions are not set pieces where I present my material. To the contrary, I’m trying to draw the material out the group, to structure a conversation between colleagues.

For me, that looks like creating a fairly detailed “playbook” for each engagement. Yes, it has topics, key exercises, timing, and a logical flow. But I also tell every client who sees a playbook that they should not plan for the session to go as scripted. In fact, they never go as scripted. Not once. Inevitably, the group needs to take something in a different direction – ditch certain things and expand on others.

But I wouldn’t walk into the session without a playbook – because it forces me to be completely grounded in the goals and outcomes of the session so that when we’re forced to improvise, I can effectively slide things around. And I can also credibly advise my client (and the group) on the real-time trade-offs they’re making by changing the agenda.

posted on April 12, 2007

Stephanie Lunn said:

Really interesting topic. For years I worked as an actress then moved into teaching drama. Both were scripted performances but as with teaching, you just don’t know which way the audience will flow. Sometimes I’d turn up with an idea for my class and have to throw it out the window because the class just wanted to drive down a different track. So the best teachers and performers, have to be able to think on their feet plus know their subject well. Now I’m in human resources, I use my previous experience and instincts when picking the trainer and obviously use references too. I think formula training is boring and a sign of someone who can only ‘train by numbers’. Very good for craft type training such as Microsoft Office. However, management training/development should be more than this. Because hopefully the audience will be engaged and interact. Reciprocity allows the script to be written ‘live’. Unfortunately, trainers who can think on their feet, be interrupted with questions that side track, but still stay on track, are rare. Having seen you David in action, you are one of those rare talented performers/trainers. You use the audience to feed your flow. It makes for a much more stimulating session. Whilst you are ahead of your game, you have to forgive those in hr who just need extra reassurances and lack of trust — after all they are the ones who are on the coal face of complaints. I know … refer them to me. I’ll reassure them!

posted on April 12, 2007

David Phillips said:

It is in the preparation and then there is the practice. I practice in my car driving to lecture – out loud.

By the time I arrive, the lecture is better but the aids are a little off target.

Does it work?

Well, last semester, aplause!

From fourth year undergraduates!

Passion is infective – as long as you do your homework.

posted on April 13, 2007

Lisa Guinn said:

I find that the definition of objectives is the most important part.

posted on April 16, 2007