I was thinking the other day about a seminar I went to a number of years ago. It was about presenting to groups of people and the best approaches to take. It was a two day crash course in learning techniques - the ins and outs of using MS PowerPoint to the best of its ability and how to find ways to keep the audience engaged. It was enlightening to me to find so many areas that I could improve upon with simple changes or modifications to how I already present. I must admit that I still need lots of practice, but it was a great start. It helped me present at a PMI LIM conference in Vancouver. It has enabled me to realize that I can constantly tweak my approach in order to better present the material, whether it’s a slideshow or computer-based training.
Another part of the presentation that they gave to us was the margin of error between 1st and 2nd place in a number of areas is usually under 2%. Let me try to give an explanation of what they meant by 2%. If you are providing a bid for a job it is more than likely going to come down to a 2% difference between the group that won the job and the runner-up. As you watch the Olympics this summer the difference between a Gold Medal and Silver Medal in swimming events or track and field events is going to be less than a 2% variance. So, why do I think about the 2% very often? Well, in the business realm I equate it to a number of areas.
As leaders and/or project managers, we are likely going to be involved in putting together a proposal or presenting the proposal to a client. This is where the 2% can help you. Take a third or fourth look at the proposal package and see if there are areas to improve. I think you will be surprised at how many things can be improved upon with only slight modifications and not take too much more of your time.
However, some of the improvements will not be so obvious. I think that sometimes we get into a routine where training, while extremely important, can be perceived as time consuming or taking away from where the “money is made”.
Let me address the word training to perhaps get you to think about it in a different light. If you are a novice athlete, or perhaps you like to follow a favorite professional athlete, you will find that training for a soccer game may not involve a soccer field and in some cases may not even involve a soccer ball. Athletes train for a sporting event by doing other things. Some may choose to run or lift weights to get in shape, some may choose to study film or notes on the opponent before facing them, and others may even play a different sport altogether in order to work muscle groups that aren’t part of the sport they compete in.
Now, let’s compare that same approach to business. If you are a project manager, it may help you to read books and attend training sessions on project management, but it also can’t hurt to try to cross-train your mind and take a leadership course or even an administrative course to brush up on typing skills. For me, I am constantly looking to cross-train in a multitude of areas. By education, I have my Bachelor’s Degree and Professional Engineering License in Civil/Environmental Engineering, but I found early on in my career that I constantly liked to learn new things so I decided to jump into consulting roles in various areas, most of which had nothing to do with my formal education. I loved it and once I took the jump I felt comfortable in my surroundings and could make a positive contribution. I also realized that cross-training helped me find ways of understanding the many facets of things. Now, the cross-training that I did in those situations was long-term and obviously took time to accomplish great things. However, there are quicker, easier ways to improve. For example, every few weeks I jump onto an app that pulls all types of articles and stories from various magazines and websites. I always am able to find great articles by a variety of authors and save them on our company’s shared drive for everyone to view. These articles range in topics from leadership, to self-improvement, and even as far-fetched as lifehacks for around the house or office.
It’s amazing to me that going to a two-day seminar for presentations would lead to so many future changes in my career - and even my life for that matter. I guess it was all about how they took the extra 2% in how they presented to get me hooked on improving, I find if I constantly try to reach for areas where I can improve, I will always be striving to be on the top of the 2% variance and not wishing I had done more after the fact. What are some things you do to improve and/or to stay on top in your position?