When I last checked in, I mentioned that my team was gearing up for the 2nd round of the AT Kearney case competition. Well, we went to their global headquarters in downtown Chicago (a few blocks from Willis Tower) last Friday and handled our business. How did we do? Well, that’s not important :). What is important, is that we had a lot of fun and gained some valuable feedback on our presentation.

For me, the most difficult part of the competition was the presentation. I’m perfectly fine crunching numbers, mock interviewing folks, and throwing together slides, but I’ve never found a way to migrate my one-on-one interpersonal skills into formal presentations. It doesn’t help that in my past professional life, I rarely gave presentations or interacted with folks outside of my department.

One of my biggest regrets during my time at IBM is that I never tried to improve at public speaking. I went to one ToastMasters meeting, won their improv speech award at the meeting (I had to pretend I was giving a speech after winning an Olympic medal), and then never returned. Now that I’ve realized how important it is, I’ve made public speaking/presenting one of my main focus areas during my time at Kellogg, dropping 700 bid points on the Managerial Communications class, participating in the Public Speaking Club, and seeking out opportunities to practice whenever possible (such as introducing speakers at the Consulting Club events that I help plan). I think that it is going to be a great way to distinguish myself throughout my career, but I have no way of knowing if it will pay off. All I know is that I don’t want to be like the speaker at the last Distinguished Speaker Series event at Kellogg, who read a prepared (by someone else) speech, rarely connecting with the audience, and steadily losing audience members throughout the sterile presentation.

Since I know that presenting isn’t one of my strong points, I wanted to prepare as much as possible before the presentation. Ultimately, I decided to practice the speech in my Fortress of Solitude (apartment) over the course of 3 days, recording myself on iMovie and then watching for areas to improve. I showed my teammates one of the movies, and they got a kick out of it. Here is a portion from one that went well enough.

The day of the presentation I was pretty nervous, and then 3 minutes into it, one of the AT Kearney consultants interrupted my teammate to begin asking questions (and destroying one of our arguments). At that point, I knew that it wasn’t going to be a formal presentation, and I couldn’t have been happier. I ended up throwing out my canned stuff and just winging it, which I felt much more comfortable doing.

I was going to delete the videos of me practicing the speech, but then I decided to hold on to them to use as a baseline. I’m hoping that two years from now, I’ll watch them and think to myself, “Wow. I can’t believe how bad I used to be.”