Presentation Skills – the Shoe is On the Other Foot

woodharbinger3_1122-Edit_1by Margaret Felts, CPSM

For every presentation coming out of Wood Harbinger, our presenters get dedicated marketing support. We’re their cheerleaders, organizers, coaches, graphic designers, and more. We use an internal presentation development process spanning about 5 weeks that includes multiple milestones for the slide creation, content development, and live practice sessions. The milestones lead all the way up to the final presentation; practice sessions and careful attention to details help a presenter be prepped and confident in their delivery. As a marketing professional, I have helped engineers for years with their presentations, but I recently had an experience where the shoe was on the other foot and I was the star of the show.

I spoke at the 2016 ASHRAE Annual Conference, held June 25 through June 29 in St. Louis, Missouri. My presentation was titled, “Business Development: the Red-Headed Stepchild of Successful Engineering Business Practices.” The premise of the talk was about how business development, communication skills, and developing strong networks are often neglected aspects of the engineering profession, and how a customized business development training program could help build these skills. I presented a case study about the Business Development Training Program (BDTP) that I developed for Wood Harbinger’s emerging leaders. My first run of the program included a group of 14 Wood Harbinger employees—from project managers and senior engineers to associates and principals—who met once a month for 18 months to learn and hone their BD skills in a safe, learning-by-doing environment.

Presentation Development by the Book

Of course, I followed our process as I got started on developing my presentation. I created the same milestones for myself as I create for any other presenter, with the same number of practice sessions. Now that I have undergone this same experience, I can attest to its success and thoroughness.

I can also now attest to the fact that it’s not an easy process! Presenting at a national conference is nerve wracking, and I don’t even have a fear of public speaking. Even though I teach presentations skills and best practices, I found myself (like our engineers) making excuses to try and back out of presenting, procrastinating on developing my presentation content and slide deck, admitting to my mock audience team that I hadn’t practiced since the last rehearsal, and found out just how hard presentation preparation can be! Luckily, I had some good cheer leaders helping me. I have a new understanding and empathy for our team of engineers.

Theory in Practice

When it was ‘go time’, I was comfortable and well-rehearsed. I felt like I knew my content very well, my slides were well thought out, and I had a fun time delivering the presentation. It may be difficult, but the process works!

If you’re an ASHRAE member, you’ll be able to read a peer-reviewed article version of my presentation content in an upcoming edition of the ASHRAE Journal. If you’d like to learn more about the Business Development Training Program that I developed, please feel free to give me a call at 425.628.6030!


Follow Margaret on Twitter @MFelts_WH

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One Comment

  1. Jeff Yirak
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Now you know how we feel! Seriously, I’m sure you did exceptionally well and brought new life to the ASHRAE conference.

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