Murphy's Law states: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong." This is especially true and especially painful when there is an audience involved.

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I fought the law…

The breaking of Murphy’s Law is not like robbing a bank, stealing a car or wearing white after labor day. Murphy’s Law is more like the law of gravity. It seems like a constant, like it’s built into the way the world works. It drags you down. You can’t really break it, but you can learn how to plan for it and how to take it into account. You can often keep it from doing damage. A lucky few even manage to escape it completely.

We all learned most of what we know about the law of gravity as a child by falling down and by breaking things. This sort of painful experience is also a way most of us learn about the effects of Murphy’s Law. Luckily for us, it is also possible to learn about how things can go wrong vicariously through the careful observation of other people’s painful experience.

When I was relatively new to the business, the company I worked for did a series of meetings all over the country. Each involved a handful of distinguished speakers, a pile of 35mm slides, a bunch of gear, and a little pipe and drape. There was also a technical crew we had contracted with to run the lights and sound and to make sure it all went together the way it was supposed to do. I was the PowerPoint guy.

My best memories of those days all involve hanging out with the crew and the director, hanging onto every word of every story they told. I learned about what can happen when you don’t measure the hotel’s freight elevator yourself, what needs to go under your mattress when you’re doing a meeting in Florida, and what it means to have a Jedi Knight on stage.

Basically, I was given the privilege of sitting in on an informal seminar taught by seasoned professionals who knew better than anyone what can go wrong and why. Not only were the stories endlessly entertaining, I learned about things going badly in ways I didn’t have the experience to even imagine.

I think everyone also recognized this as an important part of participating in their profession. A trick, tip or technique learned while listening to these stories could be crucial to saving a meeting as well as a career. Sharing your own stories (even the ones you would rather keep to yourself) was expected and strongly encouraged.

That is what I envisioned for this site when I begain working on it. I hope it will grow in to a conversation, a sharing of stories about what can go wrong when you are a presenter (or when you supporting someone else’s presentation). A place where everyone, experienced professionals as well as newbies, can learn how to break Murphy’s Law before Murphy’s Law breaks you.

6 comments to I fought the law…

  • Lee,
    Thanks for introducing me to your blog – and for bringing attention to my post. After reading your April 10 post, what do you keep under your mattress when you’re in Florida? Enquiring minds need to know! Thanks again.
    SpeakerSue – SpeakerSueSays.com

  • Lee Potts

    @SpeakerSue: Sorry to be coy, but I’d prefer to save that for a blog post. ;-)

  • Lee,
    Thanks for introducing me to your blog – and for bringing attention to my post. After reading your April 10 post, what do you keep under your mattress when you’re in Florida? Enquiring minds need to know! Thanks again.
    SpeakerSue – SpeakerSueSays.com

  • Lee Potts

    @SpeakerSue: Sorry to be coy, but I’d prefer to save that for a blog post. ;-)

  • Once upon a time I supplied audio visual labor to clients both locally and from all over the nation. We had some interesting times. This one time we were settting up a pretty large show. The union labor that was supposed to set up the set never showed. So, I was asked to get some labor quickly. I did the best I could and we were successful.

    What makes this story take a twist though is what happened during the set-up. During the actual production, the CEO of the company was going to come busting through a styrofoam set off to the side on a rare and vintage Harley, drive up a ramp onto the stage, act like he was using Bond like karate moves on a couple of stuntmen and rescue the fair maiden. Then he was going to get back on the bike and ride out through the audience. Sounds good right?

    With a room full of techs of various sorts and set builders and lighting personnel and other folks as well, he decided to have an impromptu rehearsal. No one knew but him and a few other people. Work was not called to a halt in order to give him room. Gear was not picked up and moved out of the way.

    I walked out of the room as he began his rehearsal and came back in just as he was about to head down off the stage. I was walking towards my projectionist to tell him something when I heard the roar getting louder. I look to my right and here comes this motorcycle heading straight for me. I had a few seconds to think about what I was going to do. I chose to stand still like a deer caught in the headlights. My thinking was that he wouldn't know which way I was going to go and we had a 50/50 chance that he was veer into me whichever way I went. I figured once he saw me not moving either forward or backward he would adjust and flow around me either way.

    Uh uh, instead he just laid that beautiful bike down on it's side and let it skid towards me. At that point I calmly stepped out of the path. He jumped off and with it still in gear he began yelling at me about not moving out of the way. I explained my reasoning and it shut him up, but I still got an angry look as he stalked off.

    I asked the bike's handler about it just to see if I did the right thing, and he said that I had nothing to worry about. I did act correctly. He said that if anything, the CEO should have never managed to get it into 3rd gear in such a crowded room and that he would be paying for the damages. There were big long set screws laying all over the place as well as AV equipment and quite a few people. He could have seriously hurt someone or himself.

  • Once upon a time I supplied audio visual labor to clients both locally and from all over the nation. We had some interesting times. This one time we were settting up a pretty large show. The union labor that was supposed to set up the set never showed. So, I was asked to get some labor quickly. I did the best I could and we were successful.

    What makes this story take a twist though is what happened during the set-up. During the actual production, the CEO of the company was going to come busting through a styrofoam set off to the side on a rare and vintage Harley, drive up a ramp onto the stage, act like he was using Bond like karate moves on a couple of stuntmen and rescue the fair maiden. Then he was going to get back on the bike and ride out through the audience. Sounds good right?

    With a room full of techs of various sorts and set builders and lighting personnel and other folks as well, he decided to have an impromptu rehearsal. No one knew but him and a few other people. Work was not called to a halt in order to give him room. Gear was not picked up and moved out of the way.

    I walked out of the room as he began his rehearsal and came back in just as he was about to head down off the stage. I was walking towards my projectionist to tell him something when I heard the roar getting louder. I look to my right and here comes this motorcycle heading straight for me. I had a few seconds to think about what I was going to do. I chose to stand still like a deer caught in the headlights. My thinking was that he wouldn’t know which way I was going to go and we had a 50/50 chance that he was veer into me whichever way I went. I figured once he saw me not moving either forward or backward he would adjust and flow around me either way.

    Uh uh, instead he just laid that beautiful bike down on it’s side and let it skid towards me. At that point I calmly stepped out of the path. He jumped off and with it still in gear he began yelling at me about not moving out of the way. I explained my reasoning and it shut him up, but I still got an angry look as he stalked off.

    I asked the bike’s handler about it just to see if I did the right thing, and he said that I had nothing to worry about. I did act correctly. He said that if anything, the CEO should have never managed to get it into 3rd gear in such a crowded room and that he would be paying for the damages. There were big long set screws laying all over the place as well as AV equipment and quite a few people. He could have seriously hurt someone or himself.

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