The Preparation Payoff


Preparation pays off.

One of my clients is the EPFL Innovation Park (EIP). Located on the campus of the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, EIP has provided start-up coaching and acceleration for more than 20 years. EIP has teamed up with several key players in the entrepreneurship ecosystem of Western Switzerland to offer entrepreneurial training programs mandated by the Swiss Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI). I teach public speaking for business in two of CTI’s courses.

Last month, I worked with a group of 30 entrepreneurs one evening. I went over the elements of a good sales pitch and discussed how to prepare a pitch that makes an impact.  Part of the session was devoted to giving the participants an opportunity to practice their pitches.

One of the entrepreneurs who tried out his pitch was a young engineer named Bastien Rojanawisut. He had not prepared very much for the pitch. Not surprisingly, the results were predictable. The pitch was unfocused and not very effective. The class participants and I gave him feedback, and I went over some of the things to think about when preparing a pitch.

Bastien took the lesson to heart and got to work on his presentation. The other day, he sent me the following message on LinkedIn:

I have a great story for you. During your course I “cold” pitched my project without preparing anything and let’s face it, it was quite bad. I realized that it’s not because the pitch is short that it needs less preparation. It needs a lot of preparation, maybe especially because it is very short!

It was the first time I presented something like that, unlike the traditional 20-minute things I’ve done so far. So I realized I needed practice and I attended a Pitch Competition in Lausanne one week later. I applied the 1hr/1min rule and prepared the presentation. And guess what: I won the competition against business students (I am an engineer)! I was more prepared than anyone else even though it was not enough.

So again, last Saturday I had to pitch at the CTI Boot Camp for the same idea I pitched in front of you, this time preparing four hours for a two-minute pitch. I knew it by heart. The audience was amazed by my improvements, asked me how I reached that level in such short amount of time. The coach said I am one of the only engineers in the room who actually delivered a real sales pitch.

My project is now selected as part of the CTI course. On top of that I realized how many young entrepreneurs are bad at pitching. So I just registered as a guest to the Toastmasters event in Lausanne this evening, as you recommended.

Looking forward to all the forthcoming times.

Best, Bastien

Kudos to Bastien for learning a lesson a from the first experience, working hard and completely turning it around. I particularly like his astute remark that just because a presentation is short, it doesn’t mean that you don’t need a lot of preparation. Indeed, you need a lot of preparation because it is short.

Preparation—and for me this includes thinking about the presentation, researching, writing, designing the slides and rehearsing—pays dividends. The opposite is also true. As Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Following his message above, Bastien wrote to me again and said that he had gone to the Toastmasters meeting in Lausanne. He loved it and is going to join. I wish him success on his speaking journey.

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3 Replies to “The Preparation Payoff”

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John delivered a keynote address about the importance of public speaking to 80 senior members of Gore’s Medical Device Europe team at an important sales event. He was informative, engaging and inspirational. Everyone was motivated to improve their public speaking skills. Following his keynote, John has led public speaking workshops for Gore in Barcelona and Munich. He is an outstanding speaker who thinks carefully about the needs of his audience well before he steps on stage.

Karsta Goetze

TA Leader, Gore and Associates

I first got in touch with John while preparing to speak at TED Global about my work on ProtonMail. John helped me to sharpen the presentation and get on point faster, making the talk more focused and impactful. My speech was very well received, has since reached almost 1.8 million people and was successful in explaining a complex subject (email encryption) to a general audience.

Andy Yen

CEO, Proton Technologies

John gave the opening keynote on the second day of our unit’s recent offsite in Geneva, addressing an audience of 100+ attendees with a wealth of tips and techniques to deliver powerful, memorable presentations. I applied some of these techniques the very next week in an internal presentation, and I’ve been asked to give that presentation again to senior management, which has NEVER happened before. John is one of the greatest speakers I know and I can recommend his services without reservation.

David Lindelöf

Senior Data Scientist, Expedia Group

After a morning of team building activities using improvisation as the conduit, John came on stage to close the staff event which was organised in Chamonix, France. His energy and presence were immediately felt by all the members of staff. The work put into the preparation of his speech was evident and by sharing some his own stories, he was able to conduct a closing inspirational speech which was relevant, powerful and impactful for all at IRU. The whole team left feeling engaged and motivated to tackle the 2019 objectives ahead. Thank you, John.

Umberto de Pretto

Secretary General, World Road Transport Organization

I was expecting a few speaking tips and tricks and a few fun exercises, but you went above and beyond – and sideways. You taught me to stand tall. You taught me to anchor myself. You taught me to breathe. You taught me to open up. You taught me to look people in the eye. You taught me to tell the truth. You taught me to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I got more than I bargained for in the best possible way.

Thuy Khoc-Bilon

World Cancer Day Campaign Manager, Union for International Cancer Control

John gave a brilliant presentation on public speaking during the UN EMERGE programme in Geneva (a two days workshop on leadership development for a group of female staff members working in the UN organizations in Geneva). His talk was inspirational and practical, thanks to the many techniques and tips he shared with the audience. His teaching can dramatically change our public speaking performance and enable us as presenters to have a real and powerful impact. Thank you, John, for your great contribution!

Sara Canna

HR Specialist, World Health Organization

John is a genuine communication innovator. His seminars on gamification of public speaking learning and his interactive Rhetoric game at our conference set the tone for change and improvement in our organisation. The quality of his input, the impact he made with his audience and his effortlessly engaging style made it easy to get on board with his core messages and won over some delegates who were extremely skeptical as to the efficacy of games for learning. I simply cannot recommend him highly enough.

Thomas Scott

National Education Director, Association of Speakers Clubs UK

John joined our Global Sales Meeting in Segovia, Spain and we all participated in his "Improv(e) your Work!" session. I say “all” because it really was all interactive, participatory, learning and enjoyable. The session surprised everybody and was a fresh-air activity that brought a lot of self-reflection and insights to improve trust and confidence in each other inside our team. It´s all about communication and a good manner of speaking!"

Jon Lopez

General Manager Europe, Hayward Industries

Thank you very much for the excellent presentation skills session. The feedback I received was very positive. Everyone enjoyed the good mix of listening to your speech, co-developing a concrete take-away and the personal learning experience. We all feel more devoted to the task ahead, more able to succeed and an elevated team spirit. Delivering this in a short time, both in session and in preparation, is outstanding!

Henning Dehler

CFO European Dairy Supply Chain & Operations, Danone

Thanks to John’s excellent workshop, I have learned many important tips and techniques to become an effective public speaker. John is a fantastic speaker and teacher, with extensive knowledge of the field. His workshop was a great experience and has proven extremely useful for me in my professional and personal life.

Eric Thuillard

Senior Sales Manager, Sunrise Communications

John’s presentation skills training was a terrific investment of my time. I increased my skills in this important area and feel more comfortable when speaking to an audience. John provided the right mix between theory and practice.

Diego Brait

Director of the Jura Region, BKW Energie AG

Be BOLD. Those two words got stuck in my head and in the heads of all those ADP leaders and associates that had the privilege to see John on stage. He was our keynote speaker at our annual convention in Barcelona, and his message still remains! John puts his heart in every word. Few speakers are so credible, humble and yet super strong with large audiences!

Guadalupe Garcia

Senior Director and Talent Partner, ADP International