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How coachable are YOU?

In my role as an online event producer and speaker coach, I’ve faced many challenging situations. But no technology crisis prepared me for meeting a presenter who hired me but would not bend upon my recommendation! Most people are eager to hear my opinion — but not, er, Ken.

Ken had it all together from a content perspective. He was an expert — articulate and compelling, a dream date. But soon after our preparations began, I realized he had no intention nor ability to adapt his presentation for the virtual classroom environment. He liked things his way, and no software or learner was going to change how he delivered his session. His PowerPoint slide file was one version away from hand-written acetate sheets.

Worse than the archaic visuals, his session plan was my very least favorite: throw up some slides and read each one aloud. Verbatim. Ugh! I asked myself: Could this session be any less live and still be considered a live presentation?

I suggested variations on his delivery such as allowing participants to brainstorm in Chat before displaying pre-typed bulleted lists, or asking participants to Agree or Disagree to a posted definition to be sure they were on the same wavelength. I highlighted an opportunity to poll participants to discover where participants had the most experience, if only to be sure they were paying attention.

Nope. Ken stood firm defending his chalk-and-talk design every time. In fact, he requested that I turn off the Chat pod for participants so that he wouldn’t be distracted by typed messages.

If, as a coach, you’ve met a Ken or two, you’ve probably considered several possible approaches:

  1. Let him do what he wants; it’s his presentation.

  2. Insist that he do it your way or you won’t help him.

  3. Get someone else to support his session.

  4. Have “the talk” to explain how virtual sessions work.

I chose option 4. I acknowledged his expertise in his field and told him that I needed him to acknowledge mine. I emphasized that live interaction is the most important part of a live session. If we don’t interact, I reasoned, why not just record it and let people play it back?

He softened, recognizing he was missing an opportunity to actually engage with live participants — rather than control them and protect himself from their distractions.

Now that he’d agreed to collaborate, we worked through his content together and looked for opportunities for participants to provide feedback. We added four questions that helped learners contextualize what Ken was teaching while also showing him that they were listening and engaged.

Rather than fear that typed messages would distract him from his script, Ken built in pauses where he could read and respond to participants’ questions and engage in the conversations that participants were having with one another.

On the day of the session, Ken delivered what I’d rate as an 8 out of 10. He conveyed his message clearly and connected with the learners so confidently that he surprised me. I think he surprised himself, too.

But to get there, Ken had to change what he believed about live, online sessions and to trust my experience. Ken chose to add interactions, trusting that his learners would willingly and graciously contribute to the discussion. They did.

Ken also chose to trust himself to be able to react and respond to learners in real time without feeling overwhelmed or seeing his presentation derailed. He did.

Next time you need to coach a presenter who won’t bend, remind him that you’re the expert and that your goal is to make him look good — and that he must be flexible and trust you!

And maybe take this opportunity, too, to reflect on your own coachability. Where do you need to improve? What do you need to change or learn? And where are you like Ken — so certain of your own expertise that you refuse to bend when better ways are offered to you?

Questions about how truly effective you are? Call me at 585.370.2341.

Updated 5.28.20

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