Tackle the world (and your presentation) as is

‘Tackle the world as is.’ The person standing next to me is Tom, he is a freerunner and my guide during an initiation to the sport. Little did Tom know that ‘Tackle the world as is’ would soon become my motto whenever I am giving presentations or workshops. And I am convinced that it will help you out too.

Freerunning? Freerunning (or Parkour, these terms are often used interchangeably) is a discipline that has people jumping, tumbling or climbing over, around and onto obstacles all around the city. Check YouTube if you want to see it in action.

Toon is practicing Parkour. And learning about giving presentations at the same time. (Picture by Siska Vandecasteele)

During my initiation, of course, I was not jumping five stories down. Instead I would attempt less intimidating obstacles, such as small ledges, benches and steps. Don’t be fooled by how easy things may look at first. The moment you start running towards that bench, you automatically begin second-guessing yourself. After all, right behind that bench is a pillar that you could slam into, seriously hurting yourself.

‘That’s right’, Tom says. ‘But why not tackle the world as is! We cannot remove that pillar, so you may as well take it in stride. Find a way to deal with it and make it to the other side of the bench.’

Also during your presentations or workshops you will often encounter obstacles along the way. It’s at times like those that you should simply decide to ‘tackle the situation as is’.

Three obstacles you can encounter

Obstacle 1: No projector, sound or tables

When giving a talk, it’s always nice to present some slides or a short video clip alongside and have your audience take notes. And yet, every so often, I am led into a room without projector or audio system, with the attendees seated in regular chairs (often the case in theater venues or recording studios).

No need to panic or fret, but instead think to yourself: ‘Let’s tackle the world as is.’ Quickly find a way to share your story without the help of a projector. Use the time leading up to your presentation wisely to find a creative solution.

Which slides do you really need? Is there a flipchart or whiteboard available to illustrate the most important points? Could you possibly expand on some exercises or approach them differently? Is there WIFI available to have the participants themselves look up a link on their computer or smartphone? You have options.

Obstacle 2: Hot day, the crowd dozes off

Are you presenting on a hot day in a dark room, with your audience aching for fresh air and sunlight? Tackle the world as is. Your audience is unlikely to change their minds, so look for a workaround. If the group is not all too large, why not take your workshop outside.

Perhaps they can even follow along your slides on your laptop screen. Or alternate things: continue presenting the content inside for which you absolutely need your slides, but move outside for the exercises or less complex parts. Afterwards simply return inside, if you like.

Obstacle 3: Only a microphone by the lectern?

Did the organization only provide you with a microphone behind one of those dumb lecterns, forcing you to remain more or less immobilized and out of sight?

Then tackle the world as is and (1) forget about the microphone if the group is small enough, (2) request a handheld microphone, or (3) find ways to make things more dynamic, like using hand gestures or walking away from the lectern when the sound is not as important.

(Please note that if the group is too large for you to reach them using your normal voice volume, you do have the right to request a handheld microphone. Best to do this before your talk, and not halfway through.

Obstacles along your way?

Don’t panic or throw a fit, but instead remember Tom the Freerunner’s motto: Tackle the world as is. Don’t fret over (presentation) issues that you may encounter, but instead look for ways to handle them. You’ll never be able to move that pillar out of the way anyway.

Motto can also be used in daily life.

Picture by Siska Vandecasteele
Parkour session by Antwerp Parkour School. You should try it sometime 🙂