Back in 2016, Ross Fisher gave a talk at SMACCDub called ‘The Best Presentation Ever’ which explained how each of us has the ability to give awesome presentations. Ross has made a name for himself in the FOAMed world when it comes to presentation skills and you’ll find all sorts of goodness at ffolliet.com his P cubed presentations website. The basic premise is that the story of a presentation (p1), the supportive media (p2) and the delivery (p3) multiply together to create impact. A failure in any one area reduces impact but success in one area builds on success in another to create the best presentation ever. Please do go to his website and read his blog or listen to his podcasts on the subject…it has certainly changed how I give presentations and how I view them, forever.
However, it has also got me thinking about something else, what if we applied the p cubed formula to our work lives? What if we weren’t just doing the best presentation ever but the most important presentation ever…the example we set everyday in our working lives.
The Most Important Presentation Ever?
When we stop and think about who has influenced us at work, there is often something about the way they actually lived their lives that made that impact. It wasn’t just what they believed, what they said, that struck us, it was how they acted, how they lived that made us stop and take note. If we are honest we want to be like them too, someone that people look up to, someone who sets an example for others and makes people want to be better. Is this something that just happens or can we actively choose to be like that? Can we look at ourselves, examine our own behaviour and become that sort of influential colleague. I think we can and I believe the p cubed formula is a way to do that.
The Story (p1)
Now, we aren’t talking about ‘Once upon a time…’ here, the story of your life, no, we are talking about what story you are trying to tell with your life. In this context the story is the message you are trying to get across, what you believe is important, what drives you. There are likely to be any number of things but if you stop and think you can probably get it down to one or two really key areas that matter most to you: Patient Safety, Staff Wellbeing, Kindness, Evidence Based Medicine, Teaching. These may be consistent throughout your career, they may change depending on circumstances or they may even vary from day to day depending upon your role but these are the core story that will drive your influence. If you don’t know what these are yet, stop and think, reflect upon what brings you joy and what causes you upset because that should help you see where your heart lies. Alternatively, stop and think about your current situation. What do people around you need you to be? Do they need someone to model kindness because work has hardened everyone, or is quality suffering due to too much emphasis on targets and someone needs to stand up for good practice? Can you be that person?
Leading from the heart comes to us more naturally, will require less effort initially and is fueled by passion but consequently you may feel any failures more personally. When things go wrong it may be harder to work through why you are bothering because ultimately this was emotionally driven and you now have negative emotions associated with this goal. Leading with the head may not feel as inspiring, cold logic rarely is, but if problems arise you won’t be relying on your feelings to keep you going, you’ll be relying upon a strategic decision which, however hard it may be, is still sound.
Whether you are lead by your head or your heart, understanding your beliefs are vital to establishing your p1. Without beliefs you can’t influence anyone usefully. You will be an empty vessel, a rudderless ship ready to be pushed in whatever direction pressure is applied. You will be inconsistent, offering no useful guidance to anyone as your beliefs will change from day to day. If you want to become a useful example to others you must figure out what matters to you, where your anchor is placed, because when the storms come, and they will come, what people need from their leaders is consistency.
The Supportive Media (p2)
Okay, forget Powerpoint, flip charts or hip hop raps, when it comes to media in this presentation there is only one thing that matters: what you do. You are the media in this presentation, the p2, you are what helps get across the story established as your p1. If you believe kindness is important then it is vital that you show it in your actions, you must be kind. If teaching and training is your story then you have to behave like it matters, taking time to teach, valuing educational opportunities both for yourself and for others. Never has the phrase ‘actions speak louder than words’ meant more or helped us understand more what is at risk. Nothing is a more powerful demonstration of your beliefs than you living them and nothing will damage your influence more than you failing to do so. We’ve all seen it done and probably all done it but the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ school of leadership just isn’t effective. In Spiderman Homecoming, Tony Stark says to the young Peter Parker:
“Just don’t do anything I would do… and definitely don’t do anything I wouldn’t do? There’s a little grey area in there and that’s where you operate.”
Confused? Peter certainly is and we can assume those around us will feel the same if we lead in a similar fashion. We must not only practice what we preach everyday we must be seen to practice what we preach and be prepared to be challenged and humbled by our colleagues when we don’t.
Worse still, is if you actually behave contrary to what you say you believe. If you talk about respecting others but shout at them or talk them down in the coffee room behind their backs, expect your colleagues to follow suit. If you say education matters but consistently fail to attend teaching sessions or release staff to go on training opportunities, your staff will take home a very different message. Whatever you might be saying, don’t be surprised when people choose to follow what you do instead! Let us make sure our actions match our beliefs, that we act coherently, not as a hypocrite, a functional atheist, believing in one thing but behaving as if it isn’t true.
The Presentation (p3)
If the story is ‘Why’ and the presentation is ‘What’ then the presentation is ‘How’. For example, we know why we are behaving as we do – we believe teaching matters, and we know what we have to do – we make sure we teach when we can and support training opportunities but how do we act? Do we support teaching with joy, enthusiasm and positivity, just do it as part of our job, or are we bitter, jaded and reluctant. Are we acting out of joy, out of duty or against our will? Are we behaving like teaching is what we want to do, what we should do or because teaching is what we have to do? This final part of the jigsaw is incredibly important. With a poor p3 one can be an individually competent performer but you are unlikely to ever be an effective influence on others and with a negative p3 we will come across as bitter and resentful, but develop your p3 and you can be transformed in to a shining example and a real agent for change. However, it can be so hard to get this part right and it is often the area so many of us fall down on, particularly in these days of short staffing, high workload and emotional fatigue. Enthusiasm can be in short supply and it is one of those things we see dissolving in colleagues as they burnout in front of us. The previously enthusiastic teacher, researcher or team player starts to show signs of disengagement and bitterness. We watch their influence wain as their p3 starts to fall apart. We must all be aware that the way we speak, the words we use, the expression on our face and even the way we carry ourselves around our workplace betray how we truly feel about what we are doing and this has an enormous impact on how we influence those around us.
I think we all want to be able to influence those around us and whilst we may not all have the opportunity to make ‘The Best Presentation Ever’ in front of a conference, a departmental meeting or a teaching session I believe that all of us do have the chance, every day, to make ‘The Most Important Presentation Ever’, our working lives.