I know a woman who had been recently promoted but felt like she was holding on by her fingertips.
She was juggling her new promotion and the kids at home, and it felt like it was all too much.
Every day felt like a slap in the face from her to-do list. Only a tiny portion of the giant list got done.
She'd always been so good at getting it all done. And now it felt like she was failing everyone even though she was staying up until the wee hours just to stay afloat.
A big meeting she had to prepare for was coming up, and she didn't know how she would find the time to prep. There were no late-night hours left to fit it in.
It was the turning point. This stops here.
I challenged her to take her normal prep process and cut it drastically.
She told me that before the meeting, it felt like being at the top of a diving board about to jump. 😨
But here's what happened: It went amazing! So amazing that she was asked to LEAD the meeting with a high-profile external partner.
I've been in boardrooms, addressed the leaders of US design firms, and spoken at colleges like Harvard, Penn, and UT Austin. Here's the lesson I've learned again and again: Having a fancy PowerPoint is less important than having a message that is so simple that you can fully own it and be present in it.
Here's how to channel "less is more" on your next big opportunity:
1. Give yourself a time limit to prepare slides or materials.
Usually spend 3 hours on the meeting? Set your timer for 20 minutes and jot down the essential core points in bullet point (or even back of a napkin) form.
2. Skip the notes on your slides, or just give yourself a few bullet point prompts.
Resist the urge to write out ALL the points you want to make on each slide on the slide itself or the notes. It will keep you hacking away at the presentation as an "object" instead of internalizing the core points and owning them in your presentation or meeting. It'll force you to go off-script, which is good. You'll be forced to act on your knowledge instead of relying on the slides.
3. Or skip slides entirely!
You can push this even further: Usually make a PowerPoint? Bring a one-pager with 5-6 bullet points you'll speak to. Having so few "props" is going to force you to be YOU. And it will lead to a more dynamic conversation because people won't be zoning out at the screen; they'll be anchored by a couple of key points and more free to discuss how to move forward with the information you provided.
It will feel uncomfortable but will actually make you appear more powerful because people who truly ARE powerful trust themselves.
This woman was *so engaging* because she was the *antithesis* of the stiff leadership "look" that is so often the norm!
It sounds paradoxical, but less actually produces more!