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Lifting the Trophy with a Bruised Ego

We all have good days and bad days. I am not a natural-born presenter, so even on my best days, I am not going to dazzle crowds with my oratory skills. I am, however, proficient, and I have been noticing my confidence increase over time. Whether in-person or via Zoom, most of my meetings have been successful lately, so I began to establish a healthy ego towards my presentation skills. Then came last week’s presentation.

Enter Mr Murphy

Our sales director had set up a video call with a potential client, the president of one of Europe’s most well-known sports clubs. Because of my recent history of solid results, my boss told me that I should lead the one-hour presentation. The potential client had asked for a presentation with specifics about how we could work together. Naturally, I spent a good deal of time preparing a detailed presentation, replete with background research, value-adds, and next steps for collaboration. I knew what I needed to say, I mapped out the points of emphasis that I thought would interest him, and I rehearsed the presentation a few times over. This was, to date, one of the most important presentations I have ever given, so even my overpreparation felt inadequate.

The plan was to start the presentation, and my boss would take over at the very end, about 45 minutes into it. But from the beginning, everything that could go wrong went wrong. The potential client’s internet connection was spotty. The app showing my presentation, which I had tested on Zoom before I let people into the meeting, crashed. I had spent so much time preparing myself to be perfect that I spent no time thinking about how I could pull myself together when things were not going my way. Having been thrown off from the start, I got through the presentation at a mediocre level, but about 30 minutes into it, my boss put me out of my misery and took over the presentation. And even though he did it in a very gracious way (I am certain the client thought it was planned), I still felt humiliated.

Practice what you preach

The sheer irony of the situation was not lost on me. During my presentation, I had described the RISE Human Development System. I had mentioned how certain personality types are more concerned with personal performance than team performance. Therefore, they can still celebrate—internally if they are intelligent—when their teams lose, so long as they played well. Likewise, if the team wins but they played poorly, then they tend to mope. And after the presentation—after the president of the company said that he was pleasantly surprised, after he said he wants us to fly to his location to finalise a deal, after he said he is excited to collaborate with us—I was ambivalent. While I was ecstatic about the final result, I was livid with myself for such a poor performance.

Instead of focussing on how great it is to be on a team with someone who could save me in such a situation, I concentrated on how my preparation must have been flawed. That type of introspection was warranted, but it was not appropriate for that time. Instead of focussing on my failure, I should have focussed on the team’s victory. But because I was concentrating on my bruised ego, I forgot to let myself enjoy the moment. I forgot to lift the trophy.