How Perfection Gets in Your Way

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When you’re pitching or presenting in front of a group, you want to do your best.

There are a lot of things you can do to prepare, but, as I always tell the leaders, new managers and subject matter experts in my workshops, remember one thing:

Be Prepared, not perfect

Think about it. When you’re talking to friends, do you focus on being “perfect”? The pressure you put on yourself for perfection can be like a vice grip, and you end up coming across as stiff, impersonal, and dull as dishwater.

So prepare as best you can, do lots of run throughs, and cut yourself some slack. Try to have a sense of humor, and expect a stumble here and there.

You’ll be more relaxed and more of ‘you’ will show up.

Avoid Pitch Panic by Using Intention Verbs

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You start to pitch your new creative idea, or address a room of your peers, sweat gushing out of every pore, and all you can think is “I better not blow this!”

If you stop and think about what’s going on, your focus is all on you and how you’re doing. We all have a critic that lives in our head that thrives on saying the most negative things it can. And that critic knows exactly what to say to really punch you in the gut when the pressure is on.

What can you do?

Find your intention verb.

Ask yourself beforehand, what do you want your audience to do, think or feel? What verb that captures that? Some good ones are: “inspire, motivate, excite.” Perhaps you need to caution your audience to take a new tactic or shift to a bold new strategy. In that case, you could use: “warn, alarm, or frighten” to shift them to take action, then move on to “inspire” them by sharing your vision for how things will improve after they adopt your recommendation. You might use more than one verb throughout a pitch based on the journey you’re taking your audience on.

By focusing on the effect you’d like to have on your audience with intention verbs, you distract your inner critic by giving full attention to the larger purpose of why you’re speaking in the first place. You don’t have to actually use the word, or let them know your intention verb. It’ll speak for itself in the passion and clarity of your delivery.

If you tend to deliver with low energy or speak in a monotone voice, this tactic does wonders, but you’ve got to commit to going “bigger” than you usually do.

Skeptical? Try it out on video without any intention, and then a 2nd time using your intention verb. You’ll see a massive difference.

Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

How to make or break your first impression

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In my workshops, attendees often talk about how they'd like to make better first impressions.

Most of us think we subscribe to the concept that we judge people based on knowing them for an extended period of time. The reality is often another story. Back in my acting days, we worked on our monologues for auditions tirelessly. But we ALSO worked on:

  • How we walked into a room (confident, but friendly)

  • How we said our name (declarative, without an up inflection - like a question)

  • Making eye contact with the auditors and smiling when first entering the audition room

  • Rehearsing saying the name of the piece we’d be performing as well as the author and character in a clear, confident way

So why on earth would we focus all this attention on what seems like innocuous behavior? Because first impressions can make or break your ability to get the job. First impressions carry a lot of weight, and whether you’re interviewing for a job, leading a new team, or pitching an idea, the way people perceive you has everything to do with your ability to get what you’re seeking.

But if you’re overbooked, stressed, and running from one to event to another, how do you actually shift gears? You just need 20 - 30 seconds before you’re due to connect or speak. The bathroom is often a great place for this:

  • Breathe in through the nose for 3 full seconds

  • Hold for 1 second

  • Exhale super slowly through the mouth for 7 full seconds

Don’t have that much time? As you grasp the doorknob to go into your meeting. Stop for 3 seconds and take a deep belly breath, exhale, then walk in.

The effort you put into making a positive first impression lays the groundwork that gets results. The thought bubble in the head of your audience says “this is someone I’d like to work with,” and everything from there on out becomes much easier.

So, spend time working on making a positive, friendly connection with potential clients, employers… as many people as you can because you never know how they might be able to help you out.