Collaboration is first experienced when that tiny spoon comes toward your face, filled with creamed peas and mashed turkey. The spoon moves here and the mouth moves there. Sometimes like a game and other times – just a sure miss calculation of time and space.
Well, I do have good news.
Collaboration remains as vital now as it was back then. Think about it. How many hours of our professional lives do we spend working with others in a meeting, on a project, or in a presentation? At times collaboration comes easily, and at other times … peas all over our face.
As much as we’d like to be born with it, skilled collaboration takes practice.
Jazz musicians know this better than anyone. They know that the talent of the individual doesn’t matter unless they practice how to play together. To deliver a musical experience that sells tickets and puts butts in seats, musicians must learn to be aware of one another. . . give cues, pick up on cues, play riffs that fill in all the right gaps, improvise with flair, and step in confidently when their solo comes. They do all this because they know their collaboration is vital to the musical experience and overall performance.
The musician’s style of collaborating can work for all of us, no matter what field we’re working in.
We can create our own presentation orchestra during our team meetings or our client presentations, regardless of how large or small. As co-presenters, we have the ability to take our audience to new heights. By deciding which portions truly demonstrate our strengths, passing off the baton to each other and always having our co-presenter’s back, we can move the tempo, increase the volume, come into the conversation when it is appropriate, and cut-off at the right times for our team members to run with the presentation and shine.
Musical Practices can provide examples for us to follow:
- Talk through the score (presentation) prior to playing the notes. It is important to have a keen sense of where the music is going.
- Know which part you are being asked to play. Are you the first clarinet or the second? It makes a difference in the delivery.
- Know the cues. Will you use the subtle head-turn of the jazz pianist to the bass player, or will it be placing a pen at the top of your paper to show you’d like to enter the conversation?
- Listen to those around you. Jazz musicians know how to listen for the important line. Not every line is as important as the melody. The same is true for us — sometimes we get to take the lead and other times we are there for support.
- Begin and end strong. The beginning and ending to a musical piece are important moments in a score. The audience will remember how a piece begins and how it ends. It truly will leave a lasting impression if you focus on the beginning and the ending of your presentation.
There isn’t any need to find the peas and turkey anywhere other than where they truly belong. Collaboration will provide exhilarated moments for your audience like a well-orchestrated and delivered piece of music. Gather your musicians, study the score, listen to the music, and intentionally create a memorable presentation.
written by Robin A. Miller, Ph. D.