Practice makes it perfect: Dragon’s Den

Recently masterly: had its first ‘outside the bubble’ crit. It was called Dragon’s Den, and we had three veterans from the world of business and one younger/less experienced/fresher(wo)man judge. I called the latter a fresh(wo)man because a couple of years back she was standing and presenting where we were standing and presenting. I liked that as it made me less nervous.
Having said that it doesn’t mean I wasn’t nervous at all. Jut to clarify – I was extremely nervous even though it wasn’t marked. Perhaps because it was the first time we’re getting ‘real’ judgement from outside the bubble – it was a moment of truth. It went pretty well. I knew I was mostly prepared, however not overly primarily due to other marked assignments. When I went up to the ‘stage’, my voice was shaky, and instead of presenting confidently I was reading off an iPhone. I know it’s not ideal, but… You do it. At least during the practice. And of course, it wasn’t planned! I just felt I wasn’t prepared up to scratch (or as much as had previously thought), and when that happens, I wouldn’t just go up and present semi-bothered-ly. So I read off the phone. Even when I was saying my personal story that was our product story, I read it. Feedback later confirmed that eye contact is crucial during the presentations – one must connect to the audience and having an eye contact is the way to do. And especially when telling your story – reading doesn’t make it believable. Duh! Logically, I knew it, but since I didn’t feel like I was 100% ready, thus couldn’t just look into the eye of judges pretend that I was completely prepared. It didn’t have the guts as it had affected my confidence massively.
Practice Dragon’s Den happened on 9th December, Friday. It wasn’t marked, and that’s why I saw it as an opportunity to get some feedback, however, the prerogative was to practice. Because three days later I had another big presentation coming up as well as one more a week later. The latter two were marked and had a tremendous impact regarding a grade I’d receive for a particular module. Those two presentations went great. I’m sure one of the reasons is because I was well prepared; maintained an eye contact and managed to engage the audience. If I look from Lean Startup angle, I can say this Dragon’s Den was a minimum viable product to improve presentation skills. I took the feedback on board, and I incorporated it. That doesn’t mean that this presentation was any less important. It’s an equal member of the ‘game’ where everything is connected.
Just like in life things feed into each other, so the same is in this course. What I learn here I apply everywhere and vice versa. I took it outside the class and started thinking about conversations – how I manage to engage some people better than others. I analysed why is that, and if a state of conversationalists and the topic exercised isn’t taken into account, then I can firmly deduct that eye contact as well as expressed enthusiasm and clarity is a very powerful tool engage with people. All I need to do now is practice. Just like most things, this isn’t rocket science – only rocket science is rocket science.

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