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The Weekly Might Have Missed List (08/31/08)

Grammar Girl: Funny Homophones — “When you pick the wrong word, your readers laugh at your amusing sentence. It’s great to put them at ease with a joke or two, but if they’re smiling at what you wrote in all seriousness, that’s not good. Other readers don’t laugh; they cringe and wince, lament and vent. Some sticklers just stop reading.”

MostToast: Rehearse and Learn — “Make a commitment to practice and rehearsal with the equipment that you will use during your presentation: it will make your presenting life much easier.”

Speak Schmeak: Run out of time? Never again! — “A common presenter mistake is to run out of time. Even when you’ve practiced, you sometimes find yourself rushing the last five or ten minutes of your presentation, wondering where the time went. Well, here’s an easy solution.”

Execupundit.com: Crisis Management Students — “I’ve kept both responses in mind over the years whenever considering a potential crisis and have asked, ‘What if this is one of those occasions when those students are correct?'”

Make Your Point with Pow’R: Applying Project Management Principles to Presentations — “How do you keep track of everything? How do you remember to send your introduction a week before the presentation? Do you even know who to send it to? The easiest way to deliver powerful presentations every time, is by creating a simple project plan of the work to be done, and then working your plan. In this podcast, you can learn ‘How to use Project Management Principles to plan your next presentation’.”

Speak Fearlessly: The Path to Presentation Peace: Mindfulness and Stillness — “Another very handy place to use this technique is in the practice of presentations. It’s all very well to be prepared, but if something goes awry (a cell phone rings, the wrong slide pops up), it’s easy to panic. Anxiety, and stress = sweaty palms, physical tremors, accelerated heart rate and more. When this happens, we begin to focus on the feeling of anxiety and not what’s happened to interrupt the presentation.”

Fortify Your Oasis: Golden Oldies – Thoughts on Presenting — “This poor woman utterly lost her audience. Hers was the one subject of the day that any doctor should have been interested in, but they were now going to remember her presentation for all the wrong reasons.”

vctips: Join Twitter to follow these tips. Good things to keep in mind in order to avoid disaster when presenting to venture capitalists. A lot of these are useful for presenting to other audiences as well.

Control Booth: Storage of lav mics — Take care of your mics and they’ll take care of you (by not failing mid-presentation).

Labor of love

I’ve been blessed with both a pessimistic nature and a vivid imagination so it’s not surprising that I consider the creating and updating of contingency plans one of the best parts of my job.

Trying to anticipate everything that can possibly go wrong during any part of the presentation process is pretty standard stuff in our industry and we all know that it’s impossible to prevent or control every eventuality.

This weekend’s Labor Day holiday brings to mind one of those challenging contingencies that can’t be prevented by a mere presenter or their support team and that is equally difficult for them to control. One that (so far) I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid — a strike or work stoppage happening at the presentation venue.

There was a strike like this in Boston last June where a large association meeting was taking place. Apparently there weren’t any repercussions for the meeting or the presenters but it would be interesting to know what plans they made when it became clear that the strike could become an issue.

Have you ever had to deal with a strike during a meeting or presentation? If so, please add a comment below and share with us what happened and how you were able to deal with it.

I hope my American readers enjoy their holiday weekend.

The Weekly Might Have Missed List (08/23/08)

Geek News Central: Richard Cheese the Ultimate Classless Act — A case study in how to not treat your audience.

The Public Speaking Blog: Book Talk at DP Architects (and What To Do When PPT Fails You) — “The reason why I am asking this question is because it happened to me! Everything was fine till the final minute. My laptop was connected to the projector but no matter what I do, nothing seem to appear on the screen.”

Corporate Presenter: Another TV Presenter Blooper — “A tv presenter must always do his/her research, otherwise you look stupid. And as for the mic handling – rubbish.”

Speak Schmeak: Where do you put your notes? — “Ideally, you will make these arrangements with the organizer of your talk well before the day of the presentation. This is a critical part of your preparation, making sure that all the equipment you need is available.” And Using a lectern: do or don’t? — “But using a lectern is problematic for several reasons.”

Can You Hear Me Up the Back?: Can You Kick The Lectern Habit? — “Here are five reasons why lecterns are bad for your presentation.”

Great Public Speaking: Audio Failure — “Wouldn’t you know it? I just got my laptop back from getting fixed because it was locking up. That problem was fixed beautifully, but the shop must have done something to mess up the headphone / audio output jack which I never thought to check.”

The New Yorker: Going for gold in the bimonthly status meeting by John Kenney — “Al, this is an event dominated by the Dutch, the Swiss, and, to a great extent, the North Koreans. These are active participants in bi-monthly status meetings, people who really prepare, whereas Americans- new to the sport-tend to be far more lethargic, taking it more as a pastime than as something to really prepare for.”

The AV Report: How Many Screens and Lumens? — Make sure you don’t undermine your presentations with the wrong projector or room set up. And Before You Play Back Audio or Video from Your Laptop Computer… — “Bottom line – until all computers and projectors get along in the real world (not the product literature world), AV presentations must be checked and double checked through the exact equipment which will be used on the day of a presentation.”

The Power of Reflection: Presentation Skills: How to Handle Cell Phone Interruptions During a Meeting

Advanced Presentation by Design: A new book about the Extreme Presentation method

Don’t be alarmed

“If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re late, you’re replaced.”

Every boss I’ve had since I got into the business considered call time to be holy writ. As in (imagine a big, echoing, Monty Python-esque voice of God) “Thou Shall NOT Be Late For Call Time!” Especially on show day. That’s all fine and dandy. Problem is, call time is often very early in the morning and you most likely stayed up very late putting the finishing touches on things (slides, sound check, six pack, etc.).

Then you need to deal with the alarm clock provided by the hotel. Setting an unfamiliar alarm clock can be a dicey proposition to begin with. But have you noticed how the people who procure room furnishings for major hotel chains all seem to have a fetish for really unusual, hard-to-decipher alarm clocks? How about this little number that Mark Hurst ran into recently. It’s so difficult to set, the hotel printed up special instruction cards. Guess they got a lot of complaints. There are five steps to setting the alarm, seven if you count steps that are repeated. I can see how it might be easy to accidentally set the alarm for 5:00 pm instead of 5:00 am. This happened to a co-worker a few years ago. He felt more than a little sheepish when he final made it downstairs to the ballroom. His boss was kind enough to provide him with a personal wake up call for the remainder of our stay. The rest of us were kind enough to “accidentally” set our phone and watch alarms to go off every one and a while just to rub it in.

I know what you’re thinking. Just call down to the front desk for and request a good old fashion wake up call. Nice idea, but due to increasing pressure to save money, more and more hotels are switching to automated wake up call systems that guests program themselves using the telephone’s keypad. When you’re already half asleep, these can be as dicey as the overly fancy alarm clock, without any visual confirmation that you might have actually gotten it right. And even when you do talk to a real human, there’s a good possibility that the wake up call won’t actually happen. Especially when you calling at 3:00 am and it sounds like you woke the desk clerk from his own deep, restorative sleep. Traditional wake up calls can’t be counted on and should be considered only a backup at best.

You also need to remember that both the automated wake up call system, as well as the bedside alarm clock, are vulnerable to power outages.

The best bet is to use both of these methods, but rely on your own devices to be absolutely secure in your ability to regain consciousness in time to keep the boss happy. This means having your own travel alarm clock and/or setting the alarm on your phone.

Then you need to set up a phone circle:

  • Make a list of everyone who needs to be awake
  • Decide on a wake up window (let’s say 4:00 to 4:15 am for example.)
  • Starting at 4:00 am each person calls the next person on the list and confirms they are awake and conscious enough to make it to the shower. The last person on the list is responsible for  calling the first person.
  • At 4:15, If you’re awake and made your call, but haven’t heard from the person above you on the list, you are responsible for reversing the circle and waking the person who was supposed to wake you. The calls should continue in the revered direction until they reach the person who broke the original circle.

Related Resources:

Missed wakeup call – Should I be compensated? –Great discussion on a frequent flyer forum about the wake up call problem. Confirms that the no hotel guarantees waking you up at a particular time and offers some other interesting backsup systems: “I don’t know if this is myth, but I read that American Indians used pre-bed water as an alarm. You know, 2 glasses to get up at 5, 3 glasses to get up at 4, etc. Of course, if you’re groggy and inclined to go back to bed after using the toilet, that doesn’t work.”

Wakerupper — “Wakerupper aims to make telephone alerting as easy and inexpensive as possible by enabling users to schedule reminder calls to telephones in the United States and Canada in one step, on one simple web page – for free. Enter the number of the phone you would like to be called on, the time you want to receive the call, and an optional 140-character reminder message and you will receive a call from Wakerupper at the time you specified.”

Your Turn:

Have you ever missed a call time? If so, fess up by adding a comment to this post. Hopefully the story you share might help others avoid facing the same situation. We would also love to hear about any other wake up system you might have come up with or heard about someone else using.

Overheard on Twitter: What did he say?

This is a tough one to deal with but it’s a good example of why it’s important to have a good understanding of the venue you will be presenting in. Did someone at the facility know ahead of time that the jackhammer was going to be in operation? If there a was pre-meeting site visit, did anyone ask if any renovations were pending? I’m guessing that it was emergency work being done and the event being disrupted was on the casual and informal side. If it was more important than that it might have made sense to have some sort of backup meeting place lined up.

The Weekly Might Have Missed List (08/17/08)

GIZMODO: Blue Screen of Death Strikes Bird’s Nest During Opening Ceremonies Torch Lighting.

Perform Marketing Solutions: The audience doesn’t care about you — “At an important presentation, the wireless microphone’s batteries go ‘flat’ & you wait for ages while the technical crew looks for new batteries. The laptop doesn’t open the Powerpoint presentation; the speaker arrives late; a guitar string breaks right in the middle of a solo. What do all of these have in common? Who cares?! The audience doesn’t care what caused the problem, they don’t care that it can’t be helped, they don’t have empathy for you at all, ever.”

USA Today: Chilly rooms anger people at conferences, social events — “If two or three weeks later they’re still thinking about the temperature, then that’s an issue.” He hates cold rooms. It’s so frustrating “to plan a fabulous program, with a speaker you paid $100,000 for, and all you hear from people leaving is ‘Brrr, it was freezing in there!’ ” (via face2face).

Manage Smarter: Conference Call Cacophony: Top Five Mistakes –“Your training teleconference is going great, until you hear the screaming baby in the background, and the static of a bad connection sets in.”

My Toastmasters Blog: Epic Failure: How to Not Connect with the Audience — “Yesterday I sat though an hour long presentation. Today, I cannot recall any of the main points. I can’t remember anything because the speaker did not care enough about the material to connect with the audience and make a point. Epic Failure for a presenter.”

Overheard on Twitter: Been there, done that…

It wasn’t possible to determined the story behind this post from what was on Twitter but I’m sure it’s one we’ve all heard before or actually experienced. I’ll try to contact hofi and see if he or she will be willing to share.

“Reap the rewards”

“When you have plans, roles, and responsibilities in place, you will reap the rewards many times over if a disaster actually occurs. Rather than scrambling about to figure out who should do what, you can calmly and effectively monitor what is happening. If key personnel are away, you can adjust the roles and responsibilities as needed. You can decide what should be communicated, and when, to the organization.”

(“Intranet Librarian,” by Darlene Fichter, Online, March/April 2005, p. 51-53. via http://nnlm.gov/ep/2006/10/27/disaster-planning-quotation/)

Morning Sickness

Rusty: You scared?
Linus: You suicidal?
Rusty: Only in the morning.

(Ocean’s Eleven)

Sometimes, the thing that is going to go wrong with your presentation actually starts going wrong long before you step up to the lectern. Sometimes, a disaster is sneaking up on you while your sleeping the night away in tranquil ignorance. If you’re lucky, you have some time to fully wake up, shower, eat and get yourself to the venue before the day begins go south. If you’re less lucky, you’ll wake up, ready to face the day, and it will suddenly and dreadfully become apparent that your recent unconsciousness was a blessing. And even though your still in bed, it’s already too late to do anything about it.

Public speaking presentation skills coach Lisa Braithwaite has over fifteen years professional public speaking experience and is fortunate enough to only have had one of so I’m willing to assume she’s no stranger to this sort of mornings.  In the story she has kindly shared with us today, she describes how it went for her and why it’s so important for us to gut it out when we would rather just give in.

For six years I worked for a domestic violence organization. Part of my job was to speak to high school students about healthy and unhealthy relationships. I usually gave 3-4 presentations a day and made the rounds to all the schools in the district each semester.

One day, I was scheduled to give several presentations in a row. I woke up with terrible flu symptoms: I was weak, I had a fever, my head was pounding, and I was seriously debilitated. I called the school to cancel my engagement.

They called the teacher to the phone — the substitute teacher, that is. The substitute teacher who had no lesson plan because she had been expecting me. Even worse, the students — who normally sat at computers in their business class — were displaced for the day and had to meet in the cafeteria. I faced a teacher with no lesson plan, and students with no computers. The teacher begged and pleaded with me to show up, and I had no backup speaker. So I did.

I filled a water bottle with herbal tinctures and headed over to the school. My energy level was nowhere near my normal capacity, but I dug deep and gave them everything I had. I powered echinacea during the breaks and held it together until the classes were over.

Now, I don’t recommend infecting people with viruses. This was a special instance, a difficult decision, a case of “the show must go on.”

You may be having a bad hair day. You may not feel your best. You may have stubbed your toe, hammered your thumb and squirted mustard down your shirt. Guess what: the audience doesn’t care!

Your job is always to put the audience first. No matter what. If you show up with a frown and a slouch, you will not be successful in connecting with your audience. You will not be successful in getting your message across. You will not be successful, period. Furthermore, you won’t be invited back, you won’t be referred to other organizations, and you won’t get that positive word of mouth that’s so critical for a speaker.

So suck it up. Be passionate even if you don’t feel passionate. Engage your audience even if you want to curl up in bed with a box of tissues. It’s your responsibility to give everything you’ve got. You’ll feel so much better if you put yourself out there. Maybe not at that moment, but later for sure.

I want to point out that Lisa’s wake up call doesn’t just apply to the folks behind the lectern. It’s also crucial that everyone who makes it possible for the presenter to present needs to be there and as ready to roll as much as possible. Even if you’re fighting the flu, food poisoning, a difficult client or plain, old fashioned, run-of-the-mill, early morning ennui. Sometimes you just need to fake it until you make it.

Don’t forget to visit Lisa’s blog, Speak Schmeak.

Related Resources:

One of the few good reasons for not coming in and giving your all — That Brain-Eating Virus.

Your Turn:

I just installed the shiny new Disqus 2.0 comment system on BML. Why don’t you help break it in by leaving a comment describing a time when you, or someone you know, had to force themselves to not just turn around and go back to bed because of illness or other serious presentation problem.

The Weekly Might Have Missed List (08/10/08)

Fortify Your Oasis: Presentation party pieces — “Most trainers and skilled presenters have a couple of these schticks that they can pull out at the drop of a hat. It’s a very good idea, because you never know when you are going to have to fill some ‘dead air’ because of a technical hitch or a late arrival. Steve Jobs illustrated this really well in his January 2007 keynote. His remote clicker stopped working and so did the backup.”

Sales and Marketing Manager.com: Sales Clown & — “Two selling blunders from Dan Seidman of SalesAutopsy.com. A couple guys drink slurpies before a call. And a former Xerox rep memorizes her pitch for a disastrous presentation.”

LinkedIn Answers (Michael Seidle): What is the worst presentation gaffe you’ve ever seen?

Great Public Speaking: CHECK EACH SEAT and SAVER LINES.

Learning as I go: The Day In Which I Spoke In Front of 200 People — “So, about ten minutes before a company-wide presentation is being made, it has come to our attention that there is no moderator. By the time I’m found, I’m told that I will need to do it. Uh. Crap. Me is not a public speaker as I will skipsy all over my words or start to babble with some weird fillers. No way. I cannot remember the last time I spoke to a room with more than six or seven people. 200? No.”

Communication Skills For Technical Staff: 5 Ways To Deliver A Disastrous Presentation

Control Booth Discussion Board: Human Stupidity — Photos of dangerous things witnessed  during meeting setup and backstage. Apparently there’s a lot of things you shouldn’t do with ladders, fork lifts and power cables.

Overnight Sensation: Public Speaking Success: Death by Time Limit – Tip for Trainers — “The point is that if you’re supposed to end at a certain time and you don’t, you’ll notice the energy level of the room suddenly drop.”

Valley Wag: IAC building power outage kills New York tech meetup, spares us all — “New York wantrepreneurs preparing for a night of rejection and glazed looks can relax — tonight’s New York Tech Meetup is canceled due to a power outage at IAC.”

Terrific Public Speaking and Presentation Skills: How Many People Will Speak at Your Funeral?