Not that long ago upon a time, I coached a woman with an enviable/terrifying task: she was going to pitch an idea to Jason Sudeikis.
Among her questions for me: “How should I start my presentation?”
She’s a huge Ted Lasso fan. Should she start by fangirling about the show? That it’s so funny and she loves it forever and ever and she can’t wait for season three?
I remember looking her in the eyes and saying “Sarah”
“Why are you calling me Sarah?”
“Because someday I am going to write an email about this and I won’t want to use your real name.”
“Oh, okay. Carry on then.”
“Sarah. Please do not say that. Do not say anything about Ted Lasso. Rock stars know they are rock stars. They don’t need you to tell them. And no one wants to say yes to someone who clearly believes she shouldn’t be in the same room as them.”
Now, I doubt if many people reading this will present to a Hollywood A-lister. But you probably will, at some point, present to someone you admire. I see this same mistake all the time. “Person X, you are a legendary investor, I feel lucky to be in the same room as you.”
That’s a great way to give away your authority.
Instead of doing that, lead with competency. Demonstrate how well you’ve researched the issue. Identify alternate points of view, and mention them. Never mention their rockstar-ness.
After all, if they’re so great, they would have come up with this idea themself. The moment you realize you’re the rockstar – or at least, rockstar of your idea – everything changes.
Lead with competency. Earn their respect. And, once you’ve won them over, you’ll be able to ask all the questions in the world about how weird season two was*.