I recently had an uncomfortable event that I'd like to share with other management consultants. My client asked me, at a board meeting no less, to get up and give a five minute talk on the trends in the industry that are affecting the company. I think I did OK but I was really unprepared to deliver a speech that focused (it would have been easier to give a two hour talk).
While you may have relied on your extemporaneous speaking skills and subject matter knowledge to create a solid performance, you raise a good point about being prepared to "be an expert" in your field on short notice. The problem is that we often know so much about our industry or discipline (that's part of what clients value), it does take a bit of thought to distill it down, especially if what is asked is about this week's or month's issues as they relate to a business. A long view of an industry or process skills used in the industry is necessary but not sufficient to create a short presentation to deliver real value.
Mark Twain said, "It usually takes me three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech." How would you go about preparing a good impromptu speech of one minute? Five minutes? Fifteen? What are the three to five key trends in your business you would want to get across? This is not about you or your firm, nor is it about your particular skills or experience. It is about the state of your industry and the insights you have developed that decision makers, client or not, would find valuable.Tip:
Keep a running list of the half dozen key trends or leverage functions in your industry. Keep up with the news, business media and decision makers in your industries on these topics. If the key topics change, then change your list. You might even benefit by writing out a few note cards on the topics. Having done so will firm up the main points in your mind, making sure you are well prepared for your next "impromptu speech."© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA