Day 2 was more quiet, after an energetic Day 1. Today, we had to make a group presentation on a chosen topic, within a time limit. So we rehearsed this morning and made a decent presentation. We all took turns to critique other teams. Then after lunch we were supposed to go back and improve our presentation based on the feedback.
There were funny moments. My team was sleepy after lunch, and at one point I was the only person in the breakout room with eyes open, still working on the slides. One guy fell asleep and snored, and we caught him on video. Later we played a trick by setting back our clocks and telling him an hour had passed and we had to make our presentation now!
All in all it was an interesting course, but when we’re of a certain standard and still are asked to critique each other, it felt like nitpicking. The entire team had to sit on stage during the presentation, so our body language, even while NOT presenting, was critiqued. I suppose this is fair game, because in business settings you also need to project a professional image off stage. But I think it could get a litttttle out of hand…
For instance, we had comments like:
“P, while your teammate was presenting, I saw you clutching both sides of your arms, like this…?”
P: I was cold.
“J, I saw you looking at your phone. Please don’t tell me you were sending an SMS while your teammate was speaking…”
J: I wasn’t sending an SMS! I was checking how we were doing for time.
I escaped that round, but received some valid feedback during my 2 presentations. One comment for me was, “I noticed you looking back at the screen and pausing…”
I replied that the remote controller’s reception was weak and when I clicked, the presentation didn’t move to the next slide. So I looked back at the screen and clicked another time. Of course I could simply have looked at the laptop in front of me and clicked again, so point noted.
“You gave extra information in your summary which wasn’t mentioned earlier. You showed [name of Opposition member in Zimbabwe] …”
Actually my classmate A had mentioned the opposition member about 5 times a few minutes before. Fortunately A spoke up to clarify this, and then the critique was that A shouldn’t gloss over the name the next time. So in our 2nd round he made it clear to pronounce the person’s name.
I think I’d be speaking for most of us if I said we felt a bit jaded. This was because the topics were the same, even if we improved on the content and delivery. Anyway, we lasted till 6+pm. On a Sunday!
Throughout both rounds, my slide design skills received a lot of praise, though I also didn’t want it to distract from anything else I did well. Also I believe that content comes first, and design should facilitate it. Since we agreed on our content early on, we wanted to make the slides look good as well. Now, the professor wants to use my slides as examples in future classes, which I take as an honour, considering he’s taught so many other business schools before ;-)
I was grateful that we got along as a team and that we didn’t impose our own thoughts on each other but had a logical discussion. We also ensured our points gelled and from the start we wanted a consistent story and slide design, down to using short bullet points instead of lengthy text (Hallelujah!). My teammates were a Lebanese, a Frenchman, a Whartonite from Benin, and a Brit-Belgian. I’m glad we had fun for the past 2 days and I dare say we’ve become friends.
Content-wise, I would’ve preferred a topic I was more familiar on, especially as I was doing the summary and couldn’t memorise all the points until I knew what the rest were going to say in their slides. However 2 teammates were very passionate and knowledgeable about the topic, and it also moved other teams to ask more questions than planned, so I feel we achieved our objective.
For today’s presentations, I looked too often at the big screen behind me. The second time round I had improved, but still could cut down on it. Everything else I did was apparently good. Maybe I could’ve just shot from the hip / presented from the heart so I wouldn’t forget about the overall stage presence I needed to build. I had better eye contact on Day 1 when I was sharing a personal story which I knew well, without slides; on Day 2 I focused too much on the screen. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to presentations, so knowing that I wasn’t perfect today made me disappointed.
However the feedback from classmates and the professor was, overall, invaluable. This course isn’t about people blindly cheering you, whatever you do - it’s designed to help us improve. As INSEAD students we were generally 98-99% there already, and so the remaining 1-2% had to be critiqued even though it sounded fussy sometimes.