Got chops? Are your presentation skills really ready?

Recently Billy Joel, of “Piano Man” fame, held “An Evening of Questions and Answers and a Little Bit of Music” at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. During the Q&A portion, Michael Pollack, a student, asked Mr. Joel if he could accompany him on piano for “New York State Of Mind.”  Billy Joel, the composer of the classic ode to Manhattan said, “Okay.”  A buzz then took over the crowded room.  See the video below for the performance and interaction between Mr. Joel and Michael Pollack.

Watch the video of Billy Joel & Michael Pollack.

Would you discuss quantum physics with Stephen Hawking?  Play singles with Serena Williams?  Con Ricky Jay?  Are you ready for your moment in the spotlight?  Michael Pollack had chutzpah.  He also had confidence in his preparation.  He was ready for his moment.

Charles in Central Park – New York State of Mind

Michael Pollack’s 3 areas of readiness:
1) Ready to request.
  Michael Pollack was willing to stand up and state his request.  He had the confidence to know that this was his moment and that he was ready for it.  All he had to do was make his request known.

Regardless of how wonderful your idea may be, it requires that you have the confidence to put it out there.  The world is filled with great ideas.  Most do not get heard, because people are afraid to share their ideas with other people.  Be ready to share your idea with the rest of the world.

2) Ready to fulfill the request.  Malcolm Gladwell has stated that it takes about 10,000 hours devoted to a particular talent to reach a level of Mastery with that skill.  Michael Pollack demonstrated that he had put in those hours.  When Billy Joel asks “What key do you play it in?, Michael responds, “What key do you want?”  That’s Mastery.

With speaking, it can take over 300 presentations to match Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 Hour Theory.” Experience & long-term commitment impacts skill.  Practice your presentation skills so that you can exceed expectations of your audiences.  Be ready for your moment in the spotlight.

3) Ready to stay within his role.  When Michael Pollack sat at the piano, Billy Joel confers with him for just a moment.  Michael Pollack then played the song well, very well.  He never took over or strayed from his role as the guest accompanist.  In jazz they call this “playing it straight.”

In speaking, many presenters don’t “play it straight.”  They speak beyond their given time slots.  They try to outshine others speakers when on a panel.  They break out the thesaurus to impress their audience.  It’s always better to “play it straight.”  Take less time than your allotted time to deliver your message.  Be supportive of  your audience.  Use clear words, especially when explaining intricate ideas.

Confidence without preparation: A plan for disaster
Many people believe that they can “wing” it when it comes to speaking and giving presentations.  They don’t put in the time before the presentation to properly prepare, know their audience, select the the best structure for their message, or practice their presentation.  Unfortunately, we all know of lots examples of people taking the stage without being ready, without having prepared for their moment before an audience.

“Winging it” is dangerous.  Remember Clint Eastwood and “The Chair?”  Great actor, but the his last minute decision to try something different, left a lot of people wondering, “What was that all about.?  That’s not the impression you want to leave with the your presentation audience.

Be ready for your moment.  Polish your presentation skills
Everyone can be a better public speaking.  Everyone can improve their presentation skills. To do so it takes time and dedication.  You must be willing to practice the small and big things of presenting.  You must read the books, blogs, and notes of great speakers.  You must present whenever possible so that you can attain your 10,000 hours needed to reach Mastery.  Do all this and you’ll have a nice set of “presentation chops.”

Have thoughts about being ready and practicing your presentation skills?  Leave a comment below.

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About Charles Greene III

Charles Greene III is a true Presentation Magician. Working with Fortune 500 companies, he’s a magical spokesperson who delivers product and marketing messages at conferences around the globe. Through his company Corporate Shuffle, Charles has presented at meetings in Bermuda, China, Egypt, France, Mexico, Monaco, Sweden, and, of course, the United States. His clients span a variety of industries and include 3M, Alcon, Coca-Cola, Clorox, Frito-Lay, Johnson & Johnson, Panasonic, and Wells Fargo. Charles’ public speaking and presentation workshops are engaging, educational, and empowering. With more than 25 years of experience as an international corporate spokesperson, Charles leads by example. He captivates attention as he delivers critical presentation skills. His workshops cover the core skills of public speaking as well as presentation techniques learned from decades of corporate presenting. Charles is a guest columnist for Presentation Magazine. He’s been featured in Discover, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Robb Report. When not for revealing the secrets of better public speaking, Charles spends time collecting vintage magic posters, stone lithographs of magicians from 1890 – 1930. To see some of his collection, visit He can also make a mean gumbo. Charles was born in Hackensack, NJ. He currently lives in the historic Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC.
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