February PMI – It’s A Cow!

Mmmmm mmmmmm good. I love the PMI meetings. At last week’s meeting they put out a dinner spread that puts most to shame and make their event an EVENT! I shared a table with a number of folks including PMs Tom Hoffmann, Cory Beimesche, and Juthika Pal from Cardinal; Kim Beckman from the Cincinnati Insurance Company, and P&G’s Brian Van Norman. We shared some engaging conversation about the fact that mainframes will never die, SOA and its promises (which reminded me of Chris Howard’s comments about the immaturity of the SOA in the enterprise lifecycle), and the growth of Cardinal.

Scott Cameron, P&G’s Global Process Owner over Project Management, presented on the Fear of Failure. Presented might be a loose description as he engaged us in some group events and had us standing and presenting back to the group. Scott had us identify two personal fears, talk about them, and then demonstrate a couple of ways to relax the emotions involved with the fear. He started by asking us to ask ourselves two questions: when speaking 1) what makes us apprehensive, and 2) what are we confident about. For me, the answers were 1) can I convey the subject matter in a way the audience will enjoy, and 2) that I could connect with the audience. As all the groups presented it became clear, and then Scott validated, that none of us are unique and that we all have these fears when presenting to audiences.

So the next question became, “What am I going to do about it?” Scott helped us answer this question by helping us identify with the physical fearful responses most of us experience. One of the attendees compared his feelings of fear to the butterflies he experienced as he lined up for the start of a race. The idea here is to try to identify and associate the fearful feelings of presenting with feelings we’ve experienced in other areas of life, and then to realize that we’ve conquered them before.

Scott gave us some tools to begin to overcome our fears. First, he helped us realize, or more likely validate what we probably knew but couldn’t admit, that audiences like to listen to speakers that act like they want to be up in front of the room speaking. And then to practice with that vision. Scott asked us to list out our fears, prioritize them in terms of their importance, and then start working on the top 2. Going further, an audience needs to understand they are part of the conversation and not allowed to listen passively. A speaker needs to set expectations of the audience and get them on board. For instance, if the subject matter will generate questions, you can let the audience know that they will be expected to chime in with responses. And finally, it’s important for any speaker to realize that the audience usually wants the speaker to connect successfully with their audience.

Scott showed us that we can make tactical choices that will make our presentations more successful. Then he launched into a story:

[Paraphrased from a badly mangled memory] “I critiqued a colleague’s presentation. His slides were full of so many details. ‘It has an udder. It eats grass. It grazes in a field. It produces milk.’ And on and on. After only so many details and slides I said to him, ‘It’s a cow! If it’s a cow, why don’t you just say it’s a cow?'”

Obviously, the first point is to limit a slide deck to just the message being conveyed. If you’re not sure, then ask someone else to review your deck and make recommendations. Get rid of all the slides that contain the gory details. Some other tactical choices a speaker can make to help their success are to be well prepared on the subject matter, pray (as if you don’t before a big speech), practice, start on time, and don’t put up columns of numbers, as the audience will spend more time adding ’em up than listening to you.

The workshop format helped us all internalize the lessons. Overall, Scott taught us a lot that evening.



~ by Andy on February 25, 2008.

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