16“Just the Big Picture”

A management consultant I know was invited to speak to a hundred executives at a mining conference. This was a dream assignment because it held the promise of new business. The consultant prepared a thirty‐minute presentation and was introduced with high praise. Just as he was about to begin the keynote, he was interrupted. It was baseball season and the executives in the room wanted to watch the end of the final game of the World Series. They told the keynoter he could begin as soon as the game ended—it was the ninth inning.

But alas, when the game was over, there were only ten minutes left for the presentation. The consultant went to the podium, stared at his script, and struggled to pick out the passages that would carry the message on his slides. His narrative was filled with “um's,” “ah's,” “I'll skip over this,” and “I'm not sure I have time to elaborate on this point.” He grew flustered and incoherent. The audience was disappointed and embarrassed for him, and the company refused to pay his fee.

How many times has each of us faced a similar situation? A meeting convenor or executive has told us time is tight, saying, “Just give us the big picture.” These words can be scary.

There's no better case for relying on the practices discussed in this book than when you're asked, at the last minute, to turn a long presentation into a short one. This was an ability displayed by Gorgias of Leontini, a fifth-century BC Greek orator. He “prided himself on ...

Get Impromptu now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.