How to avoid going all Taxi Driver in your next presentation

We have all been there. Despite best intentions you are suddenly lumbered with some last-minute material that you need to include in your next session or presentation. Regardless of your frustration or panic, you still need to find a way to include the information and deliver it effectively so that your clients or colleagues are dazzled as much as they would have been by the original content. How can this be achieved without you losing your mind and going ‘postal’ on all present? Here are 5 ways to manage this change effectively.

We all like to think we are good planners who would never allow things to creep up on us at the last but perhaps due to events or individuals outside our control (or maybe we are in fact disorganised. There I said it), life sometimes gets the better of us. This is very much the case when new materials are sprung on the erstwhile L&D professional.

So what do you do when you are given material at the last-minute that you are told are vital for outcomes included in the session, without blowing your top? Here are 5 easy steps to follow to make sure this is not a problem.

1. Ask the question: “Do we have to do this? No, seriously?”

The knee jerk reaction is fair one: ask the question ‘Is it really necessary that we include this?’ Who knows – through a quick discussion with those providing the information, they might realise that it is not necessary to be included. In saying this, it is more likely that having brought it up the other party raised will still want it included – so this question becomes even more imperative to give you some context to why this is the case.

However, once you have asked the question and they are still insistent on having it included, allow yourself a moment for the following…

2.Get angry and sulk for a moment. Then stop.

Remember that it is not going to do much good getting angry at this point with the messenger, for all you know they might have been given the information as late as you have, so do not take it out on them. Reviews and revision of processes can occur afterwards – you have more urgent things to sort out.

But you need to allow yourself a moment to feel frustrated and angry at what has happened. Maybe a minute or two, in your internal monologue, perhaps thinking ‘What would Travis Bickle do?’ to the powers to be who are responsible for this problem in the first place.

Travis Bickle
Dont let this be the person who ends up presenting… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do that then stop. Whether you like it or not this work needs to be done – for all that it might be unfair you need to start moving from sulking about your situation to thinking of solutions. You will also find that not drawing a line under this will spill over in to your delivery and you will only have yourself to blame for that.

You need to start working on a plan of how you are going to fix this problem.

3.What is the specific outcome we want from this being included?

So you have checked this is totally necessary and, having got the answer you did not want and going through the Analyse This style internal anger management process, you need to start thinking about what the outcome is that needs to be achieved from the addition of this information.

How will it be measured? Can it actually even be measured considering how late its addition is? What will the change that this information will support look like? If others will be asking these questions after the session, then you need to be asking them before hand.

4.What is your understanding of the subject?

Time to build your confidence. If this is going in a presentation or training session that you had already been preparing to deliver, then you actually probably know a fair bit about the subject area. In fact, in some cases, the most difficult aspect might be trying to work out where to place it rather than actually having to do any learning of the topic which, if you think about it, is not the worst decision in the world to have to make.

If this was meant to be included but was omitted, accidentally or otherwise, it should relate to what you have already been preparing to deliver. If not everyone needs to save time by going back to the first question you asked and answering it more honestly.

5.Allow yourself to daydream of successful delivery

Ok, so you have accepted your fate and come up with a plan you think will work, drawing on your knowledge and planning skills to come up with a place for this information. Now would be a good time to start daydreaming.

No, seriously! Taking a moment to visualise how you see the revised session and content playing out can be a very powerful tool in reassuring yourself of how smoothly delivered the session will be, as well as reminding yourself of examples when you have done this effectively in the past. It is something that I not only do for training sessions or presentations but also job interviews, or meetings with new clients and senior management to help me get in the right mindset of how I want these events to have a positive ending.

Note: Too much daydreaming can be hazardous

So imagine the room, with your audience. What sort of light does it have? Where is the laptop with your materials on? Can you see the people listening, or perhaps watching you present and then looking back down to handouts/slides you might have provided for them? What sort of questions will they ask? What will be their reaction be to the new materials? How does this fit in to the context of what content is being delivered immediately either side of this new section?

It will help reassure you but also spark some questions that you might not have thought of in the back and forth of getting the new information in there – again, making you more prepared and less blindsided. Added to this it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy in its own way – you think it will go well because you have pictured it doing so and you know how to manage the situation so it has this eventuality.

There is never going to be a specific, catch-all response for such circumstances, as every session is different from the next. However, I have found the above steps very effective when having to deal with late changes.

I hope such occurrences of late additions are a rarity for you. But if not, how do you deal with them? Is there anything that you would do differently to the above? If so, what?

I might need to use it one day!

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