When you are a presenter at a conference sometimes you never know what to expect. Over the weekend I attended a Toastmasters’ Conference, where the husband and I had been invited to give one of the presentations. The conference theme was leadership, especially focused on ‘winning the race’ – so close to the Melbourne Cup, it seemed appropriate.

After some discussion the husband and I decided to keep it simple and opted to concentrate on “Smart Practices for Goal Setting”. This was accepted by the conference organisers and we set to work.

As you know I like to deliver these types of sessions in a different way, so we chose some imaginative role play. ‘Desperate Dan’ (the husband) was to play the no-hope loser who wanted a trophy – nothing particular, just a trophy – in fact any kind of trophy would do even a participation certificate!

By taking him through the S.M.A.R.T. principles we were able to show the audience that these principles would also work for our own personal goals; and that they covered the absolute essentials to give our goal setting a chance of success. For Dan, we decided that he would participate and complete the 7.5 km walk held in conjunction with the Gold Coast Marathon next July and thereby receive a Certificate.

This Goal was indeed Smart – it was:

· Specific – to complete the 7.5 km walk
· Measurable – completing the walk achieved the goal
· Achievable – there were many things that Desperate Dan couldn’t do, but he could walk!
· Realistic – as the walk was not until next year, there was plenty of time for Dan to prepare
· Time focused – there was a specific time frame to work to.

An excited Dan, full of enthusiasm dashed off to prepare without waiting for further information. This, as I explained to the audience was not a good thing. There were some other important factors which were necessary to consider when goal setting.

Soon a rather Despondent Dan returned – things were not going well. So of course we were able to discuss “Enabling Factors” the resources and equipment we would need; and then how we would set out to achieve the goal – the practical plan. And finally I was able to cover how our attitude was vitally important in setting in place the determination which was essential to make the choices which led to success.

So presentation completed, PowerPoint designed and created, all was prepared and rehearsed and on Friday away we went to Ballina. On the day we inspected the venue. All was as it should be, our chairs were comfortably placed (see a previous blog), the screen was at the right height and we had plenty of time to set up and attend to last minute details.

We retired to the main hall to listen to the two main guest speakers before show time for us! The first speaker, Kurek Ashley was a dynamic American speaker now settled in Australia. His record is impressive as he was the performance coach for the Australian Women’s Beach Volleyball team, and took them from third at the previous Olympics to a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics.

His presentation focussed on attitude to achievement, and as I sat and listened I heard much of my presentation emanating from this bundle of energy!! Hmmm time for some quick rethink!

The second speaker was an International Director of Toastmasters International, Muhammad Murad. Surely I was safe here! Well not exactly. Muhammad held a number of high powered positions and his presentation focused on leadership and how to achieve success through setting yourself challenges. Goal setting in other words. His presentation was informative, and coming from the International Director of the organisation, highly credible. As I pointed out to the husband – we were in trouble!

Luckily we had a short break before it was time to make our presentation and we had to adapt and be flexible as a matter of necessity. First I quickly made a list of the differences between the two earlier presentations and ours – we had a humorous and highly effective role play to demonstrate the teaching points. Then I listed those aspects of the previous presentations which I could hark back to and use as examples of what I was teaching. Most importantly we knew our material and the topic forwards and backwards, so we were in a position to be able to restructure the presentation at short notice. I just had time to change the PowerPoint to reflect the new dimensions and we were being introduced.

We were off and running – Desperate Dan appeared to much hilarity and the session proceeded smoothly. I was able to use the material previously presented to highlight our session and as examples of the most important points I wanted to make. The down side was that as we did not have time to rehearse we ran a little short, but a vigorous question and answer session soon got us back on time. We were thanked and we gave a huge sigh of relief!

Later that evening, at the conference dinner I was delighted when a number of the audience came up to congratulate us on our amusing session, and as one put it “How clever of you to use the previous speakers as an introduction to your session!” I knew then that being flexible and adaptable had paid off.

Even when you carefully prepare your material and have submitted it for approval it doesn’t necessarily mean that your subject and the way in which you approach it will be unique. So if you hear much of the material you have planned to present being covered by another speaker you can either leave it as it is and be merely an echo of some one else, or do as I did, highlight the differences and listen for what you can use to enhance your presentation from theirs.

But remember, it all depends on you knowing your material well enough to be able to adapt at short notice. If you can then it will not be a disaster for you, but a memorable session that will be foreshadowed by the previous highly respected speakers.

So thank you Kurek and Muhammad for two most impressive sessions… oh, and for the excellent introductions!

Adaptability and Flexibility … they’re necessities in the training game.

Michele @ Trischel
And a member of Toastmasters International

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