Yesterday I was out on the shooting range with a
good friend. We shot rifles in .22 Magnum, 223
Remington (with his delightful Colt AR) and 357
Magnum calibers. The sun shone down while a gentle
breeze stirred the warm air. It was perfect
weather, perfect companionship and we enjoyed a
truly pleasurable day.
What does this have to do with you making
presentations? What value do you get from my day on
the shooting range? Read on and I will explain, I
Back in South Africa, I was an active member of a
full-bore, high power target rifle shooting club.
The objective of full-bore target shooting is to
consistently shoot accurately at long ranges that
vary from 300 yards to 1000 meters. Many factors
affect your ability to shoot accurately at these
ranges, including the wind, your ammunition, your
rifle and other equipment.
On a Saturday morning, with the African sun showing
no mercy, my weathered instructor told me in his
gruff voice "Wayne, you have to learn to pull the
trigger". I thought he meant that there exists a
secret technique to pulling the trigger, but this is
not what he meant at all. I came to learn that once
a target is in sight, you only have about 2 seconds
of opportunity to pull the trigger and take the shot
before fatigue sets in or the wind changes.
In other words, you cannot take aim for an extended
period before you pull the trigger. When the time is
almost right you must pull the trigger and live with
the consequences. To continue aiming after you
should have pulled the trigger is dysfunctional and
your results show that you missed the window of
When you are preparing for your presentations, you
also have to learn to pull the trigger. How do you
do this so that you take aim, pull the trigger and
deliver your presentation?
Firstly, when you prepare your presentation, define
what the audience needs to know about the message
that you are communicating. Then deliver that
information and only that information. Do not try to
communicate all the information that you have about
this topic. See my
blog posting about this. Take aim at what you
want to communicate, and pull the trigger.
Secondly, when you are creating handouts for your
audience and crafting your slide show, remember that
"Done is better than perfect". You will quickly get
to the point where your handouts are very good, your
slides are acceptable and your speech structure is
good. Now you need to be ready to pull the trigger.
If you continue to improve your presentation at this
point, you are in danger of taking aim for too long
and starting to waste valuable time. When your
presentation handouts, slides and speech are nearly
ready for delivery, then you are probably ready to
Thirdly, while you are getting ready to go on stage
before the presentation, go through your normal
warm-up routine. Walk around to warm up your muscles
and release some tension. Warm up your voice by
talking to people in your audience and doing vocal
warm-up exercises. Then pull the trigger and go in
front of your audience to deliver your message. I
have heard presenters use phrases to remind
themselves that it is time for the delivery, such as
"Here I go, and let the chips fall where they may"
and "It's show time baby".
Lastly, while you are in front of your audience
presenting your message, keep on pulling the
trigger. Go ahead with your presentation. If you
forget a story or don't make a point as strongly as
you wanted to, then don't agonize over it. Keep
The advice from my weathered instructor under the
brutal South African sun proved valuable to other
members of the target shooting club as well. The
successful target shooters commented how they each
learned to take aim, pull the trigger and fire. Time
and time again, my instructor would point out the
less successful shooters taking aim, adjusting the
aim, taking aim, adjusting the aim, pulling the
trigger, firing and often missing the target.
The results in our shooting competitions proved that
you have a higher success rate when you learn to
pull the trigger when the short window of
opportunity opens, not as the window of opportunity
Take the lesson from a shooting range in Pretoria,
South Africa into your presentation: Take aim at
getting your message across to your audience, pull
the trigger when you define your message, as you
prepare, and while you deliver your message.
I believe that you will be far more successful than
the presenters who take aim, adjust aim, take aim,
adjust aim, pull the trigger and miss the target.
PS. Now it is time to pull the trigger on this
newsletter and hit "send".