Stop winging it all the time.
It’s a really powerful thing to be able to pick-up context quickly, get up to speed and start contributing, but that’s not a free pass to always defaulting to this behaviour.
If the situation is important, unusual and something you’ve got prior warning for, then it’s a great opportunity to prepare ahead of time.
Great presenters are not throwing out some off-the-cuff thoughts. They’ve worked really hard to get to the point they are confident enough with the material and the flow to look like they are sharing thoughts spontaneously. The more important the presentation, the more it’ll have been prepared for. Practice and refine until it’s second nature, you’ve structured it to answer questions before they are asked, and you’ve got great answers for anything else that is likely to come up.
Sometimes you feel that being over-prepared makes you feel less natural. Don’t let that voice win. Preparing is a key way to get better as the stakes go up, so put the time in.
Similarly, tough conversations are even tougher if you go in and try and free-wheel them. The difficulty can be anything from asking for something you want, to delivering some bad news to an employee. The same advice will get you though the conversation:
- Know the outcome you are aiming for, and write it down.
- Plan out an ideal route towards that outcome.
- Think about a few different paths, consider the reactions you might encounter.
- Plan how to return to your key message.
- Give yourself a tactic to end if it all goes sideways.
Use these steps to make that tough conversation simple.
Anything that is difficult or important is tractable to being prepared for ahead of time, so look for your opportunities and put the effort in when it’s needed.
As you get more practiced, the preparation will become easier and the situations that are important enough to be worthy of preparation will become rarer.
Take the time to be prepared and you’ll nail the performance when you really need to.