It was year 2010, I was still very new to Australia, and even newer to Telstra as an employee. I was preparing for my first presentation for a firmware release “Go/No Go Meeting”.
It was the first maintenance release of a Media Product that had gone live a couple weeks prior.
I had looked into some of the reports presented in the previous meetings, and took them as templates to fill out the team’s findings.
I was confident that the report was complete. It had been reveiwed, and I had not got any negative feedback. My only fear was my audience, a lot of business stakeholders from various departments, most of whom I didn’t know, and I couldn’t see as it was a teleconference. Apart from the usual “stage fright” that I feel all the way in my tummy, I didn’t expect the presentation to be a failure.
I presented the findings, and the team’s recommendation, but the audience was not “buying” any of it. There were many questions directed at me, which I successfully answered with numbers I had with me. But the audience was still very unhappy. It didn’t take too long for the key business sponsor to tell me something that conveyed the message:
“You are not prepared for this meeting, go back, prepare again and re-call this meeting”
This was the first time in my career, something like this had happened to me. I felt more sick in my tummy. On top of it I was very confused, and kept asking myself:
“What information is lacking? How else am I to prepare myself?”
I consulted my manager(s), and the team, and took their feedback, revised the pack, and re-called the meeting.
It was the Same Story!!!
Believe it or not, this happened about three times!!!
I was ready to quit my job and go back to Sri Lanka.
I couldn’t get my head around what the audience wanted!!!
After the third meeting, the program director, who was also in the conference bridge, came out of his room and walked towards me. I thought:
“That’s it! I better pack my bags!
But he was smiling. I was more confused! I was clearly performing poorly, but his smile didn’t have a hint of that.
Greg pulled up a chair and casualy sat next to me and asked:
“So what can we do?”
He confirmed that I had all the right information, but suggested we present it very differently.
He sat with me for about 15 minutes, gave me some tips, and asked me to show what I’ve done once I’ve completed it.
I felt like I was back in University, presenting for an assignment.
The presentation was filled with colour, pictures, highlighted words, graphs, etc, which are things not too unfarmiliar to me, but it felt different doing this at “work”.
When Greg saw the report, he was very happy and asked me to re-organize the meeting.
I was terrified! I really didn’t want to go ahead with it. But, there was no choice.
I couldn’t really run away!!!
But, this time I managed (with Greg’s kind guidance) to turn the ship around!!!
The audience was so happy! In fact, I got a lot of praise as well.
Finally, it was a “Go” decision for both the presentation and the firmware release!
This entire story, I always remember for Greg’s kindness to me. I will never ever forget him for the confidence he gave me that day.
But just the other day, I was at a free event on introduction to Data Analytics which was presented by Anshu Bantra. He spoke about Data Visualisation, and how important it was to understand the audience. He also took different graphs that depicted the same data and showed us how differently they communicated, and the different messages they conveyed.
There it was! I understood why I was unprepared all the way back in 2010.
Although I presented the facts, I didn’t present for the questions and concerns of my audience.
I guess I was too new to the organisation at the time to know the history, audience, or their concerns. But, looking back, revisiting the story, having been blessed with a session from Anshu, I can clearly see what I did wrong.
It is 2019, 9 years later, I whole heartedly thank Greg for his kindness, Julie (business sponsor) for giving me 4 chances to correct myself, and Anshu for giving me some key lessons to bring this story to a lovely closure.
– Nim –