Senior EVP and presentation trainer exchange Flu Virus during coaching
Call it coincidence. My Thursday afternoon appointment with Dr. Wong had been on my calendar for months. Just a routine checkup the young physician liked me to have...as a requirement to renewing my asthma inhalers. Now I'd conveniently have him quickly restore my voice, now barely a loud whisper following two days of focused presentation coaching and training.
So when the good doctor told me that I had The Flu, I could barely believe it. He counseled me, reassuring me the Tamiflu he was prescribing would be helpful since we caught it early. I went home and proceeded to descend into two of my grimmest weeks, as the virus tightened its grip. But not before I picked up the phone to call my client with a message of warning and concern over this surprising and grim news.
My most prominent client to-date
Two days earlier, I had been coaching and collaborating with a Senior Vice President of General Electric Healthcare. He and his senior business analyst colleague, a charming younger woman in her 30s had traveled from Chicago to my Washington DC-area office on a mission to improve their presentations. He was the most prominent executive I had ever worked with; finding time on his busy schedule took weeks of planning and scheduling.
We greeted each other on Tuesday morning with a warm and gracious welcome, toured our office, chatted about the weather, and then settled in the conference room to get started on creating magnificent PowerPoint slides. I shared ideas and strategies on how to improve their charts, create focused headlines, and working more effectively with Master Slides for greater efficiency. They ate it up.
The VP emanated brilliance; his questions were targeted and relevant. As we all worked, he multitasked, responding to emails and texts, yet maintaining a sharp focus on our training.
The obvious warning
We should have seen it coming. Or at least he should have; he himself was an esteemed medical doctor. By the middle of our first day of training, my voice was turning hoarse. I struggled increasingly for my small audience to hear my words of presentation wisdom.
They both commented on the immense value and depth of information. And we all mentioned on how we felt tired. The older man and I also mentioned that we felt warm; we were both starting to break a sweat. By 5pm, my voice was almost gone. I rattled out how great they were doing, and we broke for the day with a satisfied sense of accomplishment.
I returned home for a silent evening of sipping hot tea and honey. Simple laryngitis, I thought.
The second day we returned. More in-depth presentation training, collaborative PowerPoint design and coaching. They commented how this will transform the way GE does its presentations. My typical high-energy style was more subdued. The woman commented how we both looked pale. The older man listened and worked, with an increased level sneezing and wheezing. My voice was softening and I struggled to stay professional and focused. The man and I joked that we're "getting sick of this!" as our energy steadily diminished.
The woman, later priding herself on her daily intake of vitamins and health elixirs, just sat on the sidelines watching us slowly slide into sickness.
By the middle of Day-Two my voice had all but disappeared. I shared a few more techniques, and then encouraged my two clients to apply the techniques to improve their PowerPoint presentations, as I acted as a mute one-on-one coach. By noon, their presentations looked amazing. Feeling tired and filled with valuable information, we all decided to wrap-up early. They caught their flight back to Chicago, and I made the short drive back home.
It's hard to conduct business and training without a voice. So I fell asleep early, around 7pm, confident my doctor would cure my laryntitis in the morning.
Worse than I thought
The next morning, I whispered my story to Dr. Wong. "I fried my vocal chords from two days of speaking!"
The doctor suggested I take a Flu Test. I scoffed. But I willingly complied, as he gagged me with a half-foot skinny swab down my throat.
While I waited for my results, my phone chimed with an email from my younger GE client, thanking me for the great training, and sharing how her presentations are already looking better.
Doctor Wong returned. "I have some bad news," the doctor shared. "You have The Flu."
Where or how I got this nasty bug it isn't clear. I can blame the GE guy. He can blame me. I feel I did a good deed by warning them of my diagnosis and encouraging them to seek treatment. For two of us it was too late; he and I descended into a deep and dark convalescence.
For me, my work came to a grinding halt, made even more grim by the cold, dark, and snow of a wintery January. My voice- and health- steadily recovered throughout late January and February. The GE guy also took off several days.
The GE team and I can now look back with relief, and the knowledge that these two days of PowerPoint training could help us make one terrific presentation about our shared experience. But that's the past. It's now time to focus on presentations about a bright bold future. Spring Forward.