A Tai Chi master, a prima ballerina, a swan, a great presenter … they all have one thing in common.
They make what they do look effortless. They never let you see the sweat. Edison, as ever, had it right.

The majority of clients I work with on presentation skills understand the level of thought, prep and sweat that is involved in producing and delivering a top-end presentation; but very few of them have the humility to actually put the hours in.

Every one of the top-class speakers I have worked with religiously set aside great big chunks of time to rehearse. These are urbane, knowledgeable, confident people; absolute masters of their topic; who will still spend 40 or 50 hours honing a one-hour delivery. And they do this every time they have to present new material. [Damian Conway’s thoughts on this in his Presentation Aikido talk are worth noting. Kathy Sierra wrote about him here. Come back Kathy!]

Steve Jobs has become one of the greats because he has interesting stuff to present, surrounds himself with top-end techies and design people and uses the best presentation software that’s out there. And he obviously blocks out huge chunks of time in advance of his major presentations for rehearsal. But I would bet that among that team, he has one person he really listens to.

I saw U2 play in Croke Park in 2005 and it was such a visual treat that even if I was stone deaf, I would have enjoyed the night. A U2 tour is the result of the combined energies and talents of some amazing people. but how do the band decide – from all the ideas that must be zinging around in advance of a tour – what elements to use and what elements to discard?

For years now, U2 have been bringing an old school friend called Gavin Friday (a great musician in his own right) on tour with them. For the rehearsals and early shows, Gavin sits in the audience with a notebook and jots down what’s working and what’s not. And because he has known all of the band since they were kids, when he gives them unvarnished feedback, they REALLY listen to him.

I wonder who Steve’s ‘unvarnished truth’ person is? Do you have one?