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A friend of mine at work, let’s call him Joe, is giving a presentation at a forum that our thousand person department holds monthly. It’s actually pretty impressive that he got asked. I, being the helpful person that I am, decided that I should do my part and send him some tips to aid him in giving his presentation. And then I thought: Hey, maybe one or more of my readers have a public speaking experience immanent in their future. This might help them, too! 

So here is what I sent him: 



I see that you are giving a presentation at the <our group name> forum next week. Congratulations – this is a great opportunity for you and may give your career the jump start it needs so badly.

Can I offer a few tips?

1. I’ve been in this group for quite awhile (now more than 10 years!) and I think you can take comfort in the fact that of the many strong men and women who have given presentations in this venue, only a few of them have been reduced to tears while trying to answer the harsh and derogatory questions that regularly come from this audience after, and sometimes during the presentations. I think our group has just gotten a bad reputation, that’s all. Just keep repeating the helpful aphorism about Sticks and Stones.

2. I see that you have entitled your presentation: “Parameter Management Update: Loop and Supermarket Calculator (LSC) and CSL Optimizer tools.” Is it too late to change that? It doesn’t have much zing, quite frankly. How about “We got your Optimizer right here” or “Bringin’ the smack down on <whatever these tools are replacing>.” Or maybe a pun with Supermarkets and Groceries or something. I’m at your disposal if you need more suggestions. At the very least, put some exclamation points in it.

3. I would suggest eating lightly (if you eat at all) at our luncheon right before the meeting. I’d hate to see you have to leave in the middle of your presentation due to the combination of public speaking jitters and the greasiness/spiciness of the food.

4. It is theoretically possible for you to still enjoy your weekend despite the full knowledge that this presentation to hundreds is only days away. Try not, for example, to, every time you look at your watch on Saturday, think thoughts such as “Oh, man, in only 67 and a half hours I will be attempting to present my topic coherently to a large group of people, which includes several I know quite well, others who are complete strangers, and still others who in only five months will be considering how much of a contribution I have made to our organization.”

In case you’re curious, I did the math. At two thirty in the afternoon on Saturday the “t-minus” will be exactly 70 hours.

5. Studies show that people forget most of what they hear in three years or less. So at the worst, if your presentation goes terribly, you can look forward to people not retaining that knowledge as soon as the summer of 2010. Unless it goes catastrophically bad. Which really is pretty unlikely, you have to admit.

In short — I say, try to enjoy the process. Have fun with it! A good presentation isn’t a destination, it’s the journey.


Update: He responded today –


Thanks for the pep talk. Based on your advice, I have:

1. Changed the title to “Kwik E Marts are to Supermarkets as Kenny G is to Led Zeppelin”

2. Cancelled my lunch reservations at Old Country Buffet

3. Modified all weekend plans to include heavy drinking (yes, even church)

4. Purchased some Depends undergarments for the occasion

5. Drafted my resignation letter to be delivered to <my boss> Tuesday afternoon

Talk w/ you later,


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August 2007