Finding Your Groove Thing

By Jim Endicott

No, this article is not about buying that little red convertible you’ve always wanted or learning to “bust a move.” It’s about finding an even more important groove that impacts nearly every day of your life.

Recently I spent a half-day with a very senior executive in a Fortune 50 company. This gentleman is one of the youngest rising stars in the organization and speaks around the world.  But like so many executives we coach, he was probably an average communicator, maybe even a little better.

But what made him so great to work with was he had a personal passion to be truly exceptional.  Average was just not going to cut it with him.  So we started as we always do with a baseline taping to see what things had become a comfortable and routine part of his personal communication style.  (Just like those slippers you have that feel so right, we all have a native communication style that has been broken in over hundreds of uses. What’s yours?)

He started into his standard delivery and did pretty good but there were a few things he seemed unaware of that were getting in his way. Although he was on a very large stage, he moved very slowly. What may have looked relaxed and comfortable at the end of a boardroom table, looked timid and tentative on the big stage.   He managed to put in some good gestures from time to time, but once again, because of the size of the venue, his hand movements seemed small and weak – certainly not scaled for the thousands in the conference center and the millions watching around the world.

One thing I’ve learned is one approach rarely fits all situations.  I used to mentor a 16 year-old kid from a local half-way house and on occasion we’d go to a small par 3 golf course for a quick round.  For him, every swing had to be huge – he knew nothing else.  And there was no such thing as club selection.  He used one club from the tee box to the green.  But for Mitch, it worked, he had a lot of fun and was always in the moment.  For me though, I try to work a little harder at the game of golf.   My club selection changes based on where I happen to find myself.  I don’t always take full swings.  And I have to adapt my mindset so I don’t get freaked out by my current lie!

Lest you miss the point, here it is. Those who communicate important messages must be adaptive communicators.  One size DOES NOT fit all situations and here are some key elements of adaptation to help you bring your A-game to every opportunity.

1) Have an ideal game plan – This will include location of screen, wireless microphone usage, where you want to place your laptop and how you will move to engage your audience.  If you plan ahead, hotels and even companies can/will adapt the room to your needs.  If you get there late or simply take the default set-up, don’t be surprised if you get stuck behind a podium in the corner of the room with a screen gobbling up that all important center-front real estate.

2) But be adaptive – Having addressed point #1, presentation settings are NOT always ideal and that’s life. Our space is limited or our presentation time might be cut short.  And this type of last minute obstacle can be devastating for analytical types who want to “get it right.”  What you can control, however, is how much time you have for plan B.  Get there early. Walk the space and work a plan. Come prepared with an abbreviated presentation.  Yes, everything you planned to say is ALL important, but stubbornly sticking to your plan and rushing through too many slides will only mean your impact is even more negated and you look frazzled as well.

3) Use your space wisely. For larger stage venues, don’t be a BB in a bowling alley by anchoring yourself in the middle of the stage.  Move more briskly and with confidence as you utilize the larger stage area.   But don’t forget to PLANT your feet for periods of time or your movement will appear nervous and random.  (See our podcast on Look-Lock-Move-Plant at  www.distinction-services.com)

I’m not sure what your percentages are but here are mine and I do this for a living.

70% of the time I can make the space my own and deliver the presentation I planned to give. 20% of the time, I need to adapt my game plan but I am almost always able to get into the room ahead of time. 10% of the time… yea, it’s plan C yet I can still make the experience for those listening that day a great one by bringing even more emphasis to the things I can control. (Eye contact.  Pace of delivery.  Passion. Great opening and closing mechanisms.)

Maybe the point is there is no one groove you can get comfortable with.  Life is just not that predictable. But with the stakes as high as they are these days, we need to be better planners.  Planners of what we simply insist on (and most places will gladly accommodate) and planners who anticipate and flex when we have to and not let it get into our heads.

That’s the mark of a truly great communicator. 

About the Author:

Jim Endicott is president of Distinction Communication Inc, a Newberg, OR consulting firm specializing in message development, presentation design and delivery skills coaching.  For more information about his firm’s services, visit  www.distinction-services.com

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