I was fascinated by the recent TV programme that featured Sir Chris Hoy talking about how he became so good and interviewing other elite athletes and Olympians looking for the secrets of their success.
What he came up with didn’t really surprise me – it mirrors the way I work with individuals and teams preparing for major tenders. But it will come as a major disappointment for anyone in a hurry to give them the edge over the competition – whether in sport or business.
Without exception the athletes put their success down to constant incremental improvements across a range of areas. Preparations were painstaking and measured continuously, and never focused on just one factor.
Now I don’t think for one minute that you could or should take every lesson from preparing for elite sports and apply them to business challenges. Often you get useful analogies and parallels but the worlds are not quite the same. But this is one of those cases where the lesson really does apply.
A massive leap forward?
Is it possible to go from being a novice presenter to being somebody who can command, entertain and enlighten a room in one step? I sincerely doubt it.
The fact is that presenters have to be taught and then practise the skills they need. Changes in pace and tone, the measured pause, eye contact, reading the audience, use of visuals; all of these have to be understood and practised. And everyone can get better, no matter how many times they’ve been in the spotlight before.
None of this means that your team has to go through months of training before they can be let loose on prospective clients. My experience is that everyone can achieve significant improvements fairly rapidly with the right guidance and awareness.
It’s the same as how once you’re shown the right way to grip a golf club you’re much more likely to get the ball off the ground than if you just walk onto the driving range and start swinging wildly. A couple of days of focused coaching can get most inexperienced presenters to the level of competence and confidence they need to avoid the embarrassing white-knuckle ride.
But we're aiming for excellence here, and talking about developing the higher level of skills that will land more significant contracts. People only become anything like the most effective presenter they could be when they’ve repeatedly delivered and rehearsed the presentation and continuously worked on refining each aspect of their performance.
Does the same apply in other areas of winning bids and tenders? For example, can a bid writing team step up from pitching for contracts worth and few thousand pounds to tenders worth hundreds of thousands in one leap? Probably not.
The difference with bid writing is that you can hire the experience you need to work behind the scenes on your proposals when you are stepping up to the big league. But you can’t pay somebody to front your client meetings or deliver your presentation.
How many presentation skills to focus on?
While ultimate performance depends on improvement on a wide range of skills, I’ve found it can be risky to work on too many developments simultaneously. It often helps to pick on one or two presenting skills and work on those until they become almost second nature before introducing other areas of improvement.
Having too many thoughts going on in your head when you step up to make your killer presentation can leave you focusing on the mechanics rather than the delivery of the message, which is not helpful.
All of which underlines the point about elite performance being the result of longer-term methodical preparation and incremental improvements, rather than tricks or quick fixes.
Hugh Graham, The Bid Coach
When you need to become the sort of presenter that can hold the attention of a room full of important people, give me a call.on (01963) 240555
or email firstname.lastname@example.org
More about presentation skills coaching.
I have many years of senior sales and account management positions.
This experience taught me how to interpret exactly what clients are seeking, and what they need and expect to see and hear from the successful bidder. We draw on this experience to give your team an additional competitive advantage by building on their existing strengths while improving their team-working and self-awareness.