Presentation Diet Plan - Or Superstition?
I get a little asparagus happy this time of year. Honestly, Michigan asparagus is at its absolute prime between Mother's Day and Father's Day. So for one month, I cannot seem to get enough of this fresh, local, delicious vegetable. I eat it at least once a day.
After Father's Day, I'm pretty much over it. Until next year, that is!
But between the Michigan asparagus seasons, I eat a much more varied diet. Unless it's the day of a major presentation -- then, I rely on a somewhat ritualized food quirk.The Presentation Diet Plan.
You see, I can't just eat ANYTHING on the day of a major presentation. I need to keep my energy up, so protein and carbs need to be on the menu. And I cannot afford a fit of, em, gastronomic distress during a presentation, so greasy, fatty, spicy, and carbonated items are definitely OFF the menu. And as much as I love a glass of wine with a big carby meal, that combo can leave me prone to sleepiness or drunken rambling -- both highly undesirable to audience members.My presentation diet?
An organic, no-sugar peanut butter sandwich. On whole grain bread. And water. That's it. That's my pre-presentation meal: and has been for years. It gives me energy. It sticks to my ribs. No blood sugar crashing -- and no burping. It also packs easily -- put a few peanut butter sandwiches in a zip lock bag, and they can survive a mean day of travel.
As much as I'd like to tell you that my presentation diet is a sensible solution to keeping my energy high while avoiding discourteous gastronomical fits and unpleasant metabolism side effects, I now have my suspicions. It seems that performers and presenters are a superstitious lot -- we get into habits that have nothing to do with reason.
Many actors say "break a leg"
instead of "good luck" before a performance. Whistling behind the stage or uttering the name of a certain Shakespeare play
? This is also supposed to bring bad luck. And let's not forget the good side of luck and performance: athletes and actors are famous for carrying good luck talismans or undergoing quirky little rituals before performing.
So...is my peanut butter sandwich + water pre-presentation diet plan practical and sensible -- or have I veered off into the land of the supernatural?
And what's your presentation diet plan? What foods do you avoid -- or are absolute musts on the day of a performance?
Even if it's not food-related -- what's the oddest ritual or habit you've heard of someone routinely undertaking before a performance?
The 4 Most Important Elephants of Presentation
In grad school, a marketing professor insisted on an oral report. One student in class did not speak English as her first language.
When she gave her report, she began talking about "The Most Important Elephants of International Marketing". We all thought, of course, that she mispronounced "elements". After the first time, most audience members, including myself, merely smiled.
But after a few minutes, it became clear that she was going to repeat the word "elephants" -- multiple times -- for the remainder of her presentation! So our professor interrupted the speaker.
"Excuse me," he said kindly. "I hate to interrupt you. Your speech content, so far, is very good. But one small thing is unclear."
He explained that an elephant was a huge animal with a trunk, tusks, and floppy ears. The speaker looked bewildered.
So the professor pantomimed the trunk and made a strange elephant noise. The professor suggested that perhaps the word she wanted was "element".
photo credit: Mara 1
The speaker looked embarrassed. She blushed and stammered. Trying to recover, she asked the laughing audience:
"So elephants are very big, powerful animals, yes?"
Of course, we all agreed with her.
"My ideas are big, powerful ideas. Just like elephants. So please continue to think of my elements as elephants."
For the remainder of her report, she would say the word "elephant", then excuse herself and carefully say "element".
It became clear to me that she had rehearsed her report, and used the word "elephant" in rehearsal . For her speech, the wrong word was ingrained in her brain. It wasn't going away any time soon! Nonetheless, she recovered nicely. She delivered a wonderful presentation, elephants and all!
I learned four unintended lessons from her talk:
- Practice doesn't make perfect. If you're rehearsing incorrectly, you can count on faulty delivery. Rehearsing alone is fine - but not forever. Get feedback.
- Mistakes can be endearing. No one thought the speaker was an idiot for making a mistake. The audience empathized with her, and found her mistake charming.
- Preparation pays. Even though the speaker bobbled one word, it was clear she knew her material. She recovered, and delivered a report that likely earned her an "A".
- The unexpected can rivet attention. Because of one mispronounced word, I remember a 15 minute speech -- 20 years later. Why not use a homophone -- or other unexpected technique! -- to make your next presentation more memorable?
What's your most important elephant when you deliver a presentation? Or rather, what unexpected technique do you like to employ to make your presentation content stick?