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.