Want to be a Great Presenter? Think like the Little Engine That Could

the little engine that could

One of my favorite childhood books was, and still is, The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. Remember the story?  A train full of toys and games and good things to eat and drink for the children of the town over the mountain breaks down on its way to deliver its load of goodies.

First, a beautiful, brand new passenger train comes by who can’t possibly be tasked with helping this little train over the mountain. The disabled train is met with disdain by the second train passing by as well. That engine is a big powerful freight engine; he has no time to carry toys and games. Along comes the third engine, old and tired, who is convinced he doesn’t have the power to pull the broken train. He “rumbles to the round house chugging, “I cannot, I cannot, I cannot.” Finally, the little blue engine comes, who sees the train’s need, and more importantly, the children’s need.

Although she’s very small and the mountain she’ll have to pull the broken train up is big and steep, the little blue engine believes in herself, thinks of the importance of her mission and – success is hers. (And joy is the children’s as their toys and games and good things to eat arrive.)

So what, I can hear you thinking, does this have to do with presenters and presentations?  A lot, my friend, a lot.

First, the little engine doesn’t waste time thinking about herself. She doesn’t hem and haw about how small she is, how heavy the load will be, how big the mountain. Instead she does three things.

First, she thinks about the importance to the children of receiving the things the train is carrying. As a presenter, you must think of your audience and the importance to them of receiving your message. It is something they need and/or want. You are merely the vehicle to get it to them.

Second, the little engine assumes the responsibility of getting the train over the mountain. She could have easily brushed it off and gone on her merry way. She knows the job is hers to do, and she knows it is important to do it right. A presenter’s job is to get information, be it persuasive, informative or motivational, to the audience. They have invited you, they have trusted you to deliver this message to them. You must do it right. This means preparation and practice.

Lastly, the little engine knows she has to get herself psyched up for this job. And boy, does she ever. The whole way up the mountain she chants to herself; “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”  Filling herself with positive energy makes all the difference.

You can tell yourself you’re a lousy presenter and make it so. You can just as easily tell yourself you’re going to rock your audience’s world and make it so. Nobody has more power over your possibility than you. As my friend Marc Tannenbaum says, “It’s a six inch game. It’s all between your ears.”

Put your mind to it. Your audience is counting on you. Be your own biggest cheerleader. I know you can, I know you can, I know you can. (Oh, and when you do, you’re sure to be heard. )

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