Steaks and Trash Can Lids: The Power of Presentation

June 1, 2017



One of the hardest but most valuable lessons I’ve ever had to learn is how much presentation matters. You can have the best argument and all the facts on your side, but if you don’t position a decision or an action the best way possible, you can be right and still loose. As shared in one of my favorite TV shows, think about how you would react if you went to a gourmet restaurant and ordered their finest steak. They cooked it exactly to your preferences and your mouth watered to smell it about to arrive at your table. But then the chef pulled it off the grill and served it up to you on the lid of one of the kitchen’s trash cans. No matter how aged the beef was, how well it was prepared, or how hungry you were, there’s probably nothing that could persuade you to eat that meal. That’s the power of presentation.


Although it’s so important, how we present our ideas is often given little thought. We shoot a quick email in response to a conversation that would really be more effective with a phone call. We neglect to talk to the people impacted by our decisions before moving them forward. We focus on cooking the steak but not how it will be served. The times I’ve both prevented problems and caused them are usually linked by this same issue.


Once I pitched a change that made perfect sense to me and the leadership I report to, but that I didn’t fully explain to my team. I had invested lots of time informing my key decision-makers on the options and how I arrived at my recommendation but didn’t bring our staff along with me through that same process. I thought I was saving them time by dragging them through the details, but I didn’t consider that I was actually selling them short. I appreciated when they let me know their concerns so I could back up and make sure we were all on the same page, an opportunity many people wouldn’t have given me.


When have you skipped a critical step in communicating? How do you build consensus behind your ideas? If you tend to stick to safe behaviors like email or avoid tough conversations, how could you become more intentional and think through the best way to approach situations?


Like this topic? Here are some great articles that dive into the issue on a deeper level:

When is a phone call better than an email? 6 times when you should take it offline.

9 Strategies to make selling your ideas more successful.

How to have difficult conversations with your supervisor.




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