Who’s the conductor?

If you have ever been to the orchestra, you will no doubt remember the period before the start of the program where all the musicians tune their instruments? Watch the following video but forward to 1:00 minute in.

It does not sound great, does it? 40 or 50 instruments all individually playing without a relationship to each other in their own time. Notice the faces and mannerisms of the musicians, they are smiling at each other distracted even, not listening to each other. Yet, at 3:00 minutes in, when the conductor walks in, that all changes: they all fall silent and then magic happens. Music plays, instruments together, each with a part that complements each other part, be it the first violin with the backing of the string section or the “lowly” triangle as percussion. Notice their faces, how the concentration appears and how they are listening to each other., working together to form the harmony, ensuring they come in exactly when they should. And the conductor is there, calling each instrument in, managing the time, the dynamics, all the way through. The same musicians that made the cacophony of tuning, playing in harmony. Was it that they mysteriously transformed from basic skills to master musicians in the space of tuning their instrument? No, they are master musicians already, they simply had to heed the guiding of the conductor to turn noise into music.

Now have you ever been part of a presentation where you are all in tuning mode or have you been in symphony mode? I have seen (and been part of) presentations where all of the team seems to be pulling in different directions, a lack of continuity and no sense of timing. One of the worst symptoms of this, which I have had in my own career in pre-sales, is when someone in your own team suddenly says, “why don’t you show them xyz feature?” where that feature has no relevance to the demo and worse still you have not prepared it? Presentation derailed in a heartbeat. But I have also been part of presentations where it all just seems to flow, the team works as one, and the customer is completely engaged because of it. The difference is the conductor. You need to have someone in the team, normally the BDM designated as the conductor. Their role in the presentation, is to make sure all the instruments are tuned before the presentation (preparation) the presentation is rehearsed (practice) and that each person in your team knows their role, and their timing – what do I need to do, what do I need to say, when do I need to do or say it. This is not an advocacy for a sterile word-for-word presentation, if anything the opposite. It is only when you are confident of the conductor that you have the freedom to be yourself and be the master “musician” The other part of the Conductors role, is to ensure only those playing an instrument are on the stage – there are no “hangers on” there are no people there because of their position – each person has a piece to play, a timing, and a time not to play. Yet, I have seen so many presentations where we make exceptions to include people who have no role, or worse still, do not know the piece we are about to play – i.e. they have no idea of the context, the technology or the customer, and they create a risk of taking your presentation off in a direction you do not want to go.

I have had the privilege of being part of some incredible presentations. We all knew our roles, we knew the timing and importantly we had faith in our conductor, that when questions were raised, or a problem occurred (because technology) that the conductor could take the baton and redirect it, and that the right person would pick it up as if it was pre-planned, because in some ways, it was.

If you are struggling with presentations that seem to have no continuity, no flow, it’s time to think about the conductor.