June 23, 2008

Trust your gut

I recently took a speaking engagement that, from the moment I accepted it, did not feel right.

The time between getting a commitment from the organizer to the date of the presentation was too short. I also cut short a business trip so I could fit it in.

After surveying the participants, I decided on a different course of action than usual. Instead of customizing my traditional public speaking presentation for the group, I created an almost entirely new presentation. In a too-short time frame, with a trip in the middle, while having house guests and undergoing bathroom renovations. I was still working on the timing in my hotel room the day before the presentation, which was a bad sign.

I was scheduled at the end of a full day of training, into a tight time slot. When I arrived, early, they were already a half hour behind schedule and exhausted. I didn't have an opportunity to meet or talk to anyone before I started as I usually do. Did I mention that this was a Sunday?

As I began my presentation, I noticed several people in the hot and stuffy room struggling to stay awake.

At the end, there was no time for questions, although I offered to stay and talk with people individually. But they were all in such a rush to get home to their families and other obligations, that they pretty much all grabbed their stuff and left.

I was unsatisfied. The presentation was just okay, in my opinion. The evaluations were positive overall, but could have been lots better.

There are things I should have done differently. And there are things the organizers should have done differently. But the bottom line is this: I never should have accepted the engagement.

Am I being too hard on myself? No. I should have gone with my gut on this one.

There have been plenty of speaking engagements over the years that were not ideal, but I knew I could and should make the best of the situation. This was not one of those times. Good learning experience, though!

Have you ignored your gut and paid the price?

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7 comments. Please add yours! :

Unknown said...

Oi! When I ignore my intuition, it generally leads to aggravation!

Sometimes, I wonder if it's a self-fulfilling prophecy -- or if I have remarkable intuitive skills!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

I could definitely see it being a self-fulfilling prophecy, although at other times, I've been able to turn around that foreboding feeling and make it work. Not this time.

Andrew is getting fit said...

I had one of those experiences recently. I got roped in to be filmed giving a presentation with about 1 days notice. I didn't think it would work and I don't think it did but...the person who wanted it loved it. So sometimes we know it could be so much better but it's actually relatively ok. That relatively is important to consider. I work at a university so I've seen a lot of crap presentations.

Anonymous said...

If the comment cards were positive, and the organizers would have you back again - it was the right thing to do. It sounds to me like you're striving for a level of perfection that's unnecessary. As they say, if you don't fail or make any mistakes, you're not trying hard enough!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Andrew, I think you're on target with that "relatively." Enough people liked what I did to give me decent evaluations.

Anonymous, I wouldn't say the evaluations were overwhelmingly positive. There was one low mark on one measure in particular from more than 10% of the group, that really surprised and disappointed me.

I'm definitely a perfectionist and I fight it every day. And you're right in that my mistakes in this case had to do with trying too hard.

But in this particular situation, I was far enough away from perfect to consider myself mediocre. And that's never acceptable to me.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post, I feel like you hit the issue right on the mark. It's funny how we trust our feelings when they say we're hungry, or when they say we're tired, but not when they say we're not ready for some situation, or when we feel as if we shouldn't do something.

Thanks again for the great illustration.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks for your comment, Devin, and for making an excellent point!

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