You may think that the traditional art of Sadou (茶道) is a strange place to glean lessons that can be applied to various aspects of our daily lives, but the simple practical lessons from the Zen arts run deep and wide. Ichi-go ichi-e (一期一会) is a concept connected to the way of tea; it expresses the ideal of the way of tea. Roughly translated the phrase means "one time, one meeting" or "one encounter; one opportunity." In the way of tea we should respect the host and the others in the garden and the tea room and honor the moment as if it were a once-in-a-lifetime gathering. That is, we should cherish every meeting for it will never happen again. Ichi-go ichi-e is a reminder that each tea ceremony is unique even though the elements are familiar.
Application for presentation
Each occasion to present or speak publicly is also a unique event although your material may be so familiar that it feels routine. Being completely present in a presentation — right here right now — is something I always touch upon when discussing the delivery of a talk. The moment will never happen again, even if you do the same talk 100 times or more, the audience is different in each case. The audience is different, the time is different, and since your last talk, you are different.
Forever but never again
This idea of ichi-go ichi-e reminded me of a line from a famous jazz ballad from 1949 called "Again" (Mark Murphy's Stolen Moments version is my favorite; listen to the song). There is nothing Zen about the lyrics or their origins, of course, but there is one line from the song that has stayed with me since I bought the Mark Murphy album when I was 16: "We'll have this moment forever, but never again." I didn't understand that line when I was in high school, but it stuck with me. Now those simple eight words are almost a kind of mantra for me; and the meaning is clear and illuminating.
(By the way, the subtitle for the movie "Forrest Gump" in Japanese is ichi-go ichi-e. I suppose this is because the Forrest Gump character appreciated every moment and every chance encounter without a thought of being anywhere except where he was at that moment. See the movie poster in Japanese.)
Update: went to a tea house today and did indeed enjoy a great time with a couple of very nice tea masters who taught us more lessons on the way of tea; very casual and friendly. A few snaps from today.