Own The Message
Back in my early consulting days, I was asked to give a presentation to a prospective client and was handed a deck to present. My instructions were to go through the material, get comfortable with the content and then do a run-through with the partner with whom I’d be doing the pitch.
The content was right in my sweet spot, so I was pretty comfortable with the key messages that we needed to get across. But some of the material in the deck didn’t sit well with me. Some of the messaging was off, and parts of it alluded to details that I didn’t think were at all relevant. But I felt that since I was handed “the bible”, I had to make my way through it all, as-is.
Thing is, my lack of confidence on those specific pages came through in the prep meeting the next day. And at one point, I just looked at him and said, “You know, I really don’t like these pages. They don’t make sense and don’t fit the narrative.”
He looked at me and said, “Then take them out. Only present what you’re comfortable with.”
I was a bit taken aback by that comment, because I’d come into the meeting with the assumption that I had to work with what I’d been given. That, if this was the bible, then I had to use it as presented.
But that actually wasn’t the case. I’d been brought in based on my knowledge and my capabilities. I was being trusted to achieve the objective, not follow a process.
What a novel thought: only present what you’re comfortable with!
That understanding freed me up to do what I thought was right and become comfortable doing what made sense to me in the moment. Not just for that presentation, but for all presentations and meetings and pitches since then. In other words:
Trust yourself. You’ve developed a set of skills and that’s why you’re here. Bring those skills to bear in what you are doing.
If it doesn’t make sense to you, it’s OK to question it. Don’t assume anything is sacrosanct. The deck (or messages or story) in front of you were created by someone and represents their story. If that’s not yours, change it.
Own what you present. Make the messages your own. That’s the only way to be believable, to get your point across, to sell and have someone actually buy (whatever “buy” means.)
In other words, have the courage to ignore whatever the conventional wisdom is at that moment. If you don’t like that message, change it.