Steve Willis is a master trainer and vice president of professional services at VitalSmarts.
I recently delivered an extended speech to a group of doctors. But this was no ordinary group of doctors—it was a group of emergency room doctors who absolutely, positively would not tolerate any fluff-laden presentation. The organizers told me up front that this group wouldn’t tolerate any pair and share exercises, videos that were not 100 percent healthcare related, and without exception—at the peril of mass walk-outs—this group would not tolerate role plays or ANYTHING that even resembles practice.
Over the years, I’ve learned to distinguish the difference between a presentation that really resonates with a group and one that falls flat. And while it might seem counterintuitive, I’ve noticed that when I cut out the fluff (i.e., the practice-related activities), the group usually indicates that the presentation was lacking.
With this in mind, I worked with the organizers to create some space for practice, which they eventually (and reluctantly) consented to. And even though they had given me “permission” to do some practice exercises, I saw them wince at the mere hint of the word during the session.
The wincing soon ceased as the organizers saw the doctors really engage in the practice. They even willingly worked through practice sessions for longer than two and a half minutes—which was apparently a new record for them. By the end, the session organizers were convinced. In fact, one leader even said, “Wow, I guess we were wrong. We should have trusted you a little more. Who would have known that it even works with doctors?”
So, next time someone tells you practice isn’t necessary, ask them if they’d prefer a presentation that falls short or one that can engage even the most skeptical audience.