Comfort Zones are Overrated

This is the greeting that I offered in the published proceedings from last year’s conference. In the run-up to this year’s [intlink id=”415″ type=”page”]Presentation Summit[/intlink], we think it makes for interesting reading…

My daughter Jamie is a capable and confident softball player, having just completed a third consecutive all-star season. This fall, she tried out for a competitive traveling team, comprised of highly-skilled eighth- and ninth-graders, and in her own words, “I used to be one of the best players on my team—now I suck.”

I’m not sure if she was angling for sympathy, but if so, she didn’t get any from her dad. I think this is one of the best things that she could have possibly done. The humility, the wake-up call, and the realization that she now has to work harder will all serve her well. Perhaps we’ll look back and see that the comfortable little bubble of being the big fish in a small pond was holding her back.

We aren’t suggesting that you use the S word to describe your proficiency with presentation development, but we love to watch our patrons leave their own comfort zones. “I can’t believe I called myself advanced when I signed up,” one woman said last year. “There is so much I don’t know. Can I please change that to beginner?”

Oh, the parallels I can draw, watching Jamie bunt for the first time. She can’t just stick the bat out there any longer; now she has to read the motion of the shortstop to determine where to bunt the ball. Now she can’t just hit; she needs to know how to hit the ball to the right side of the infield to move a runner from second to third. Now she must know to hit the cutoff or throw through to a base. She had no clue about any of that before she was pushed.

Lest you think you have signed up for boot camp or something, we won’t bark at you as Jamie’s new coach does. We find that our patrons supply their own motivation to further their skills, and we consider it pure joy to be witnesses to it. We love watching you make your first custom show, identify an “audience-centric” message, post your slides online for sharing, and a couple hundred other pearls and nuggets that together we will uncover across these four days.

So many in the presentation community are content with the skillset they have now, comfortable knowing that they meet their deadlines and perform their tasks.

Comfort zones are overrated. Stepping outside the box is where the action is, and we are so incredibly pleased and grateful that you have chosen to take that journey with us.

We promise to make you dizzy with new ideas and to encourage you to rethink everything you took for granted about presentation design, creation, and delivery. And we promise to do it without once telling you that you suck or making you run the bases blindfolded.

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