Once the initial surprise of being invited to speak at the PGA Teaching & Coaching Summit in Orlando had subsided it suddenly dawned on me that I needed to put something good together to present. It’s not like I was short of material however and in fact faced the opposite problem.
The back story to my invitation to speak at the summit is something near to what follows;
I had spent 3 days in Denmark with Kenneth Hansen and Rasmus Rolighed conducting a class that they had arranged last August, 3 days is a long time and requires a lot of information to fill so you can get an idea of what pool I had to draw my presentation from. Mike Adams followed with a trip to Denmark a short time later and needed a presenter concerned with the wedge game for the summit. “Who’s the best in Europe?” Fortunately for me I must have still been fresh in the memory as Kenneth and Rasmus were kind enough to recommend me. A couple of emails later and it was arranged. I was booked in to speak at the largest annual gathering of Professional Golfers on the planet. Amazing how things pan out sometimes.
So I had a couple of months before I stepped onto the stage in Orlando, you could look at that as a blessing or curse depending on how you deal with things. I thought it was a good thing as I needed to put three days worth and 5 years of research & testing into a one hour slot (on which I ended up under running by the way).
Over that period of times my presentation progressed through a number of drafts, few of which I felt comfortable with so I needed to reassess. What did I want people to walk away with? My answers to that question were:
I wanted people to sit and be made to think. Maybe to re-think what they do and maybe apply even the smallest piece of information I shared that day to their everyday teaching because then I would have made a difference.
I began to bear down on something I was quite happy with and started to ask some close friends and peers if they would take a look at what I had. I was ready for constructive criticism and got some, I also realised that I couldn’t tick all of everyones boxes either, you will never impress them all.
My actual rehearsals were quite limited, I ran a session in the UK pre Christmas in which I basically threw a load of information at a room full of Professional’s and tried to figure out what stuck. Being midst man flu at the time did zero for my presentation skills but the content was mostly well received.
Beyond that I barely rehearsed at all. The truth is that if you KNOW your subject and are PASSIONATE about it you will struggle to go wrong, even if you get slightly out of sync with your slides as I managed to a couple of times!
As the big day drew closer I will admit to feeling some anxiety, I don’t think it’s normal for anyone not to when stepping into the unknown. This led to me finding some coping strategies which can and will work in most situations.
It’s You: I’m sure you will have heard this a thousand times in many different ways whether from a concerned parent as a child or similar but any feeling you have are a product of your thinking. There, I said it. It’s all your fault. I’m not suggesting for a minute that you just ignore what is coming but begin to make peace with it. Realising that all the pressure you feel is a product of your own mind can be extremely liberating, no one in the room is rooting for you to do badly. Yes they are interested to listen to you, yes they hope to take something of value away and if you do your job they will. Assuming the burden of pressure is your choice though, you don’t need to take it.
Visualise: On my first full day in Orlando I was asked to visit the theatre to run through my presentation to ensure there were no technical issues with it. It felt like a bit of a chore having just flown across the Atlantic but it was one of the best things I could have done as I got to walk onto the stage. I got to stand there and familiarise myself with the surroundings, to look out at the seats that would be filled in two days time. This meant I had that to take away and work with.
At any time when I felt even slight discomfort with what was coming I could close my eyes and run through what was going to happen; the walk onto the stage, the lights shining down, the vast screens behind me. The only thing missing was the eyes of the guests but remember that they don’t want me to do badly, in fact they want it to be great.
The other coping strategy was my secret weapon, Sam Quirke , the closest thing I have to a second brother. He made the trip with me and was the ultimate sidekick, even took sneaky pictures of me in the make-up chair (yes, make-up).
The Big Day
I had to be in the green room 45 minutes before my time slot (make-up, yes) from where I watched Chris Como and Bernie Najar conduct their presentation and live lesson. Then the call came. It was time to go to the stage and be ready to walk on. I had a strange sense of calm at this point, in part thanks to my preparation and comfort with the situation. The next hour was a bit of a blur, I was aware of some things that weren’t quite perfect but for the most part it went quite smoothly and quickly! I actually under ran on my time because I spoke a little faster than normal, we had time for questions then though so it wasn’t a problem.
I walked off the stage and the first person I saw was David Leadbetter who was due to follow me. He shook my hand and said how much he had enjoyed what I had to say. To be honest I didn’t expect the big names to be listening so that came as a pleasant surprise.
Then it was off the the green room again after being congratulated by many more on the way. It was at this point that I started to feel an almost overwhelming sense of relief, thoughts drifted towards my late father and how much he would have enjoyed seeing what I had just done. I’d never really had the opportunity to see him swell with pride, I think that might have done it.
The rest of the day involved a lot of passing conversations! At one point it took me 15 minutes to get 100ft across the hall to the bathroom, I guess that’s what happens when you say something different AND wear a bright shirt!
I was happy just to survive, as it turned out the feedback was somewhere between very good and excellent. Here are a few tweets that appeared in the aftermath.
A hallway encounter with Jim Hardy, Chuck Cook, David Leadbetter & Jim Mclean topped off what will be one of the most enjoyable days of my career so far in which they all gave a collective thumbs up to my work.
This, combined with the positive feedback from so many peers both in person and via social media provides all the motivation one could need to continue the journey. There's so much more for us all to learn and figure out and I for one have had my fires stoked further, this isn't the pinnacle, this is the beginning.