Glass Half Full


I committed a huge faux pas several months ago and almost lost my credibility as a presenter. My mental TiVo keeps replaying the moments leading up to the mishap until a self-induced coma takes over – a common disease known as “analysis paralysis.” I was the second half of a tag team training session and noticed my teammate was running way too long. When I took the floor, I had less than 15 minutes to cram in 45 minutes of material. But I kept my credibility (and cool) by remembering the three Ps: perspective, patience and politeness.

I stood in the back of the room so only the presenter could see me circling my index finger in the, air my universal sign for “wrap it up.” When that didn’t work I tried the basketball referee, hand paddling move for traveling. Nothing. I pointed to my watch then drew my hand across my throat for “cut.” The speaker never acknowledged my presence.

I could have interrupted, played more charades or completed jumping jacks to get his attention, but decided to sit down and look at the situation from a different point of view. While I found his material to be somewhere between uninteresting and downright boring, both in presentation and content, others thought it spot-on. If the audience shared my opinion then I needed to compress my information into a compact, entertaining and powerful message or make it available through another source.

A hybrid solution came to me: I used my meager ten minutes to provide a high-level overview with a few intriguing facts and asked for business cards with email addresses in order to forward additional details. While some ponder if the glass is half full or half empty, my cup overfloweth with more than three-dozen business contacts.

Our first session of the day was far from perfect and I wanted to share some choice thoughts with my “partner” about his long-winded routine. But several events happened in the span of a few minutes that altered my plans.

First, I reminded myself that the participants are often unaware anything is wrong (unless I tell them or complain about the lack of time), proving ignorance is bliss. Second, my colleague immediately apologized for the lopsided segments before I could unload on him. He even solicited ideas on what could be trimmed from his PowerPoint slide deck. And shocking me to the core he asked, “What was with all the semaphore?”

Had I lost my temper with my associate for being uninformed with basic hand gestures, well, I’d be the backside of a donkey. Had I rushed to the front of the room, sacked the current quarterback and demanded my time, I’d alienate my co-instructor and the childlike actions would crush my credibility with the crowd.

Now for the gratuitous clichés and proverbs to hammer the point a little further:
1. In the end, it all works out
2. Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet
3. One minute of patience, ten years of peace

It’s easy to be rude. Even easier to rebuke a presenter for being more focused on their coffee cup than paying attention to the audience or team teacher. But being kind in the shadow of your own frustration is disarming. It brings unforeseen rewards to the surface. As the Dalai Lama said, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

While my comrade was unfamiliar with the silent messages sent via body language, he responded to a friendly explanation. We completed six more presentations together and debriefed after each session, tweaking, modifying and improving our delivery.

Add up the three Ps (perspective, patience and politeness) and it equals respect. The respect you have for yourself, your audience and fellow presenter, with a calm and polished approach, will keep your credibility.

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