I just got sucker punched by a client

It wasn’t a literal sucker punch or anything like that but it definitely felt like one because

I was for sure caught off guard. To the point of feeling my heart sink into my stomach...

And I was worried my face might’ve given it away for a split second, but I think being on a smaller screen in Microsoft Teams may have saved me.

Here’s how it went down:

We were preparing to do a kick off call for about 60 people.

And as we consultants like to do, there were slides…

Each slide had someone assigned to it and mine were slides 6 and 7 so that’s where I focused.

The thing is my friend and now client handed over to me on slide 2 (the agenda slide) to facilitate the whole conversation.

In that situation, there really are only two options:

Option 1: say something along the lines of "I thought you were covering these" which would’ve been true but for sure would’ve thrown off the vibe of the meeting and potentially led to an awkward exchange.

Option 2: jump in and try to make things happen like that’s exactly how we drew it up in our gameplan. Now, the thing with this approach is the partner was also on the call, which may make you think maybe you should defer and let them take the lead or deal with internal aftermath later of being second guessed.

So what’s the right answer?

Do the thing that will look and feel most natural while you’re "on stage". Even if you debrief later and decide as a team you want to handle those types of situations differently in the future if they come up again.

But there’s something even bigger here I want you to take away, which is an important point about preparation.

The best consultants are ready to bring structure and drive conversations forward.

This doesn’t mean you need to own presenting everything or that you have to assume the role of management. It does mean though that you always want to set up your client to be successful. It’s the Lebron James no look pass of the consulting world.

To put in slightly different terms, you want to have enough working knowledge to be able to freestyle if you need to, to fill in gaps in a conversation even as part of normal flow.

Over rehearsed robotic presentations just don’t go over as well, but you want to make sure all they key points are hit.

What success on this looks like for each person varies and to make it more complicated, it can even change over time based on your comfort level and the role you’re expected to play for a particular presentation.

It’s important to pay attention to this skill. Otherwise, it caps your upward mobility.

Take it from someone who has been told "you need more reps" on sales presentations the last two years (maybe 3) as part of where I needed to focus for my personal development.

I think I had a real breakthrough in this area this year which I’ll share more with you in future emails, but if you need help applying this to your specific scenario the fastest way is to go here: