By Noel Pullen on April 20, 2017
Guy and the Gold Medal
The French Olympic hurdler, Guy Drut, found himself in an unenviable position in the early summer of 1976. He was France’s only hope for a track-and-field medal, and the burden of carrying the nation’s pride on his shoulders was getting to him. Drut later told me that he had spoken on several occasions prior to the games with our long-time client Jean-Claude Killy and that he really felt he owed a part of his gold medal to Killy. He explained it as follows: “Jean-Claude told me that I was the only one who knew how to get my body and mind to their ultimate peak for the Olympic Games. He then told me that after I had done this that I should keep saying to myself, ‘I have done everything I can to get ready for this race and if I win, everything will be great, but if I don’t win my friends will still be my friends, my enemies will still be my enemies, and the world will still be the same.’ I repeated this sentence to myself before the qualifying heats and during the break between the semi-finals and finals. I kept saying the sentence over and over, and it blocked out everything else. I was still repeating it to myself when I went up to get my gold medal.From the Fear of Failure passage in What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School: Notes from a Street-smart Executive by Mark H. McCormack. Underlining is mine.
This isn’t the fear you’re looking forFew of us have been in the starting blocks at the Olympics but for many of us a similar level of anxiety can be brought on at the thought of presenting a technical demo in front of our fellow engineers – even our friends and colleagues.
By repeating those words, Drut downplayed the consequences of failure and detached his anxiety from his situation. Every time I go up on stage, I say those same words, for the exact same reason.
Working out loud is a good thingEvery Wednesday morning for the last four years our entire technical staff gets together for Demos and an All Hands. Engineers sign up to give 5-minute demonstrations of new product functionality or internal tooling and then take questions from the audience. After the Demos we move on to announcements and awards. Over the last four years we’ve done upwards of 440. I’ve watched almost all of them.
For everyone who attends this session, it celebrates people and accomplishments; it drives alignment around mission, strategy and priorities; and finally, it provides a forum to ask and answer questions. (Thanks for that excellent article Gokul).
Each presenter needs to make the most of this opportunity because talking about your work is as important as the work itself. The challenge is to get so good at presenting a technical demo that others feel compelled to celebrate your work, change their outlook, and share your story. That means making it succinct, informative, and relevant.
The leap from paper to the stage is huge – the way our ideas sound in our head is not at all how they sound out loud. Here are five ways to elevate a mediocre technical demo to a great one. Read More …