A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.

The Weekly Might Have Missed List (09/28/08)

Blue Room technical forum: Wifi interfering with Radio mics, Strange goings on — “The strange problem we are having is that at some venues we seem to have a conflict between the radio mics and wifi, whilst at other venues there is none. When there is conflict, the signal stength on the Sure recievers is all over the place (normally rock solid in this size venue) and the signal drop out is very high, this occurs over all frequencies in the group. With all radio mic transmitters off, there is no sign of a signal being picked up from the wifi on the Sure recievers. Looking at the frequencies used by the mics and the wifi there should not be a conflict, but there most definately is at times.”

Speak Schmeak: What not to do at the end of a presentation — “We plan a lot for what to do before and during a presentation, but not much for what to do at the end — or what not to do.”

The Codebelay Blog: How Do You Avoid Presentation Disaster? — “But the code used for my presentation didn’t work because the machine it was working on wasn’t configured correctly. There might have been an issue with someone overwriting my code, too.”

Dave Paradi’s PowerPoint Blog: Presenting when you are not allowed to use a handout — “A participant in one of my workshops recently presented me with a new challenge. In his position as a sales professional, he has now encountered two large organizations who have stated that when he presents to them, he is forbidden from bringing handouts for the audience.”

Lynn Espinoza: When YOU should NOT be the spokesperson! — “You’ve been tapped to be the speaker at an industry event.  There is a nagging feeling deep inside your gut that you are being set up for failure.  The content for the speech is not your own, and in fact this is not your area of expertise. You feel like you’re over your head. Guess what? You are.”

Mary Hanna: A day for nitpickers — “The room was full of professional speakers, both beginning and accomplished. The presenter, a well-known marketing expert, was talking about achieving credibility as a speaker. A bullet on his PowerPoint slide, which I was following on the handout, said ‘Always site your sources.’ As I always do, I corrected the handout, crossing out ‘site’ and writing ‘cite.’ I turned to my friend and pointed it out. She acknowledged it with a nod. ‘It affects his credibility,’ I whispered.”

TJ Walker: Should I rehearse and for how long? — “Yes, you should rehearse. From a presentation coach’s perspective, the following 25 words are the dumbest phrase in the English language: ‘I don’t want to rehearse because I don’t want to seem canned. I want to seem spontaneous and fresh so I’ll be better winging it.’ Ugh!!!”

CNET News: ‘Google Moderator’ tool takes on lecture-hall chaos — “There was never enough time for all the questions, and it wasn’t clear that the best questions were the ones actually getting asked,” Heath wrote in a blog post. “And since many of these talks were led by offices outside of Mountain View, it became harder for distributed audiences to participate.”

blogcampaigning: Public Speaking Tips — The last one is best.

Brad Montgomery: What to do when your humor fails? — “When I coach others about how to be funny, I teach saver lines. Basically, these are jokes that you tell after a joke goes bad to “save” the situation. Johnny Carson was the king of savers. I just found this video….check out the master.”

KNOWHR: Writer’s Remorse — “Here’s what else I know: Those last-second edits rarely add anything to the quality of the communication.”

Great Speaking Coach: Avoid the Deadly Quotations Trap — “Why not? Because what could be a living, memorable moment when delivered by you with vocal variety and gestures becomes a flat, two-dimensional inert set of words.”

The Power of Reflection: Do You Make This Mistake When Ending Your Presentations? — “Gord’s terrible ending damages his career.  He looks weak and indecisive.  His presentation fails to generate any enthusiasm for his cause.”

Comment of the Week: Careful, you’ll put your eye out!

It seems to be a really hot topic. One of my first posts from way back in April, Jedi Knights With Frickin’ Laser Pointers, is still generating new comments. Just about everyone agreed that laser pointer use should be kept to a minimum, but I really like the way Jeff Bailey of MostToast summed up his remarks:

“My current presentation remote has a laser pointer built-in. I find it useful for checking to see if the batteries are dead but that is about all I use it for.”

Think of it as an adventure, as in “The Poseidon Adventure”

[A slightly different version of this article originally appeared in the June 2008 edition of the PresentationXpert email newsletter.]

Many people consider the 1970s the golden age of the big Hollywood disaster movie and it’s fair to say that Airport, The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno are usually the first films that come to mind whenever this genre is mentioned. But disaster movies never go completely out of style and every year we’re offered new opportunities to consider the ways in which things can go completely and terribly wrong.

What is it about these movies that makes them perennially popular?

It’s obvious that people find them entertaining. Let’s face it, there’s something very compelling about watching a disaster unfold (as long as it isn’t unfolding on or around you). These movies also offer lessons or morals that gratify our desire for karmic retribution (“Well that’s what they get for saying the boat would never sink”). And in most cases, no matter how bad things get, in the end there is some sense of triumph over great adversity or some discovery of a previously unsuspected personal strength that lets everyone leave the theater on a typically Hollywood high note.

What does this have to do with giving or supporting presentations?

I’m willing to bet that every person you know who has been in the business for more than a year or so has their own collection of presentation disaster stories.

And these stories share many of the same characteristics that make disaster movies so popular.

If you get two or more of us together you can be sure that stories are going to be told. Many of my favorite memories of being on site working a big event are from the time spend absorbing stories told by old pros who have been around a long time and been through almost everything.

– – – – –

Although these stories share many of the characteristics that make disaster movies entertaining, they also differ from the movies in some important ways that make them even more useful: Continue reading Think of it as an adventure, as in “The Poseidon Adventure”

The Weekly Might Have Missed List (09/21/08)

news.com.au: Porn served up to government officials — “A senior civil servant is facing the sack after pornographic images flashed up as he delivered a powerpoint presentation to government officials in the Solomon Islands.”

Make Your Point with Pow’R: Screen Captures — “Never, ever, demo live websites during a presentation. You run the risk of at least the following, and possibly much more going wrong.”



Great Public Speaking: More on CD ROM Backups of your Program — “I did a speaking gig this week in Vegas and had to use my backup presentation on CDROM. Low and behold, when I opened the presentation it was barely readable!”

Fortify Your Oasis: Know Your Audience — “Have you ever been at a wedding where the best man told what he thought were hilarious stories about the groom – stories that fell completely flat with the majority of the audience?”

MostToast: Don’t Put Toastmasters On Your Resume — “They stopped him after thirty-four minutes; thirty-four minutes of false starts and dead ends. They stopped him after spending thirty-four minutes listening to something that wasn’t closely relevant to the position. Sam had blown the presentation.”

Life in the Corporate Theater: Sonoma — “Moral of the story? Don’t completely shut your sliding glass door on a hotel balcony. I can’t imagine what I would have done if I was on the 12th floor. Also, make sure you have clothes on. I never would have lived it down if I had to climb over to Allen’s balcony in my underwear!”

Corporate Presenter: French Farce — “TF1’s Laurence Ferrari runs into a bit of hot bother with Al Pacino & Robert de Niro earlier this week”

The World: 8 Timely Tips for Pre-Presentation Preparation By Patricia Fripp CSP, CPAE — “The big day has come. You are ready to deliver your presentation. To guarantee your success there are still a few final steps to take before you face your audience.”

The Software Pro: Choosing a Presentation Remote — “Rehearsing with your remote should be a built-in part of your presentation rehearsal to avoid distracting your audience and accomplishing the goal of communicating your message.”

The Grammarphobia Blog: Daised by podiumbrage — “God, I’m turning into a grump, but when it comes to politics and language, abuses get me downright dyspeptic. One common mistake has surfaced during the recent heady convention days. It’s the misuse of “podium” for “lectern.” I suppose I’m a lone voice crying in the wilderness on this one, but the podiumbrage has left me daised.” Good news is it’s now acceptable to use “podium” for “lectern.”

ManageSmarter: The Top 12 Presentation Mistakes — “Mistake #1: Overlooking “Murphy” If it can go wrong, it will go wrong. This mistake basically means that you walk into the room where you’re going to present and something is wrong. LeRoux tells a story about a multimillion-dollar sales presentation to which “Murphy” paid a visit—in the form of missing curtains and a boardroom window overlooking a huge pool surrounded by bikini-clad swimmers (you can guess what the attendees looked at instead of the presenter).”

Ellen Finkelstein:

Okay, so you’re a PowerPoint Guru. You’ve been using it so long, you remember when everyone still thought it was a pretty nifty piece of programming. You remember a time when it wasn’t being blamed for all of the ills currently plaguing our civilization.  Every year you score major points with the new interns by showing them how to create custom toolbars. Everyone comes to you when they can’t remember that trick for jumping right to a slide when you’re in show mode. You’re either very happy to be at PowerPoint Live 2008 right now or you’re seriously bummed to be sitting at home missing it.



Unfortunately, as this story from PowerPoint expert and author Ellen Finkelstein reminds us, having guru-level knowledge of a particular piece of software doesn’t always help with an uncooperative piece of hardware.

A professor at the local university asked me to give a session to 37 MBA/Accounting students on presenting data clearly. I created the presentation. As I usually do, I created a web page on my site for the students and wrote up a handout for them, so they could download it after the class. I do this so people don’t have to take notes while I present and can focus on listening.

I took home the projector and tested it on my laptop. It didn’t work, and I assumed it was my laptop, because I’ve had problems before using this laptop with a projector. So I borrowed someone else’s computer, borrowed the key to the classroom and came 15 minutes early to test everything out. I set up the projector and it worked fine. As the class came in, I had the first slide up on the screen in Slide Show view. The projector was on a table in front of one of the student desks.

I have to explain that my talk was based around showing the students techniques for making data and concepts clear and visual. So, I was going to spend most of my time in Normal view and let them see how I added an image, formatted a chart, and so on. For this purpose, a handout was useless; they needed to look at the screen to see which tabs I used, and which buttons I clicked. The handout was just so that they could later follow the steps on their own.

The first issue was that the borrowed computer had PowerPoint 2007 while I had written my notes for PowerPoint 2003. Luckily, I know both well enough that I was able to adjust as I went along. I asked how many students had 2007 and how many 2003, and 75% had 2007 (they were new students and had just bought computers) and 25% 2003. So, I adjusted my steps to 2007 as I went along.

I made a short introduction and went into Normal view. At about slide 3, the student sitting nearest the projector decided that the image on the screen was a little askew. He was right. So he moved the projector a little. The image disappeared. He fiddled. He fiddled some more. No image.

I improvised and started talking about general principles. I couldn’t use the whiteboard because the screen was covering it, so I just talked.

The student fiddled some more. Other students came over and tried to help. After about 5 minutes, I didn’t have any more principles and there was still no image on the screen, so I told him to give up. What I did was I held up the laptop and showed it to the students the way a kindergarten teacher reads a page in a picture book and then turns it around to the children to show them the picture. I put the laptop down and did a few operations, explaining what I was doing, and then showed them the result. I expect most of them couldn’t see anything, but they were polite and listened. By the end of the session, which was 2 hours long, my arms were aching from holding up the laptop!

At the end, I promised them that I’d add the actual presentation to my web page so they could download it and asked them to give me a couple of hours after class to get that done. I told them that the combination of listening to me, reading the handout, and using the presentation would give them the information they needed, and I think that was true. But it certainly wasn’t the best option!

Later, we discovered that the projector cable had a bent pin and that was the cause for the problem.

Ellen did all the things you should do when you’re trying to prevent Murphy’s Law from messing up a presentation. She tested the equipment in advance of the meeting. She had backup equipment and it appeared to be doing what backup equipment was supposed to do. She was also great at thinking on her feet and finding ways to work around the obstacles that were presented to her in this particular situation. Being prepared to do that can sometimes be as important as any other precaution you can take. And sometimes it’s all you can do.

Your Turn

Were you ever in a bad presentation situation that was rectified more by your ability to improvise than by any preparation you you did or precautions that you took? Please take a moment to share you experiences in the a comment.

Overheard on Twitter: “I’m my own worst enemy”

The Weekly Might Have Missed List (09/14/08)

Lots of really great links this week.



Fleeting Glimpse Images: Pulling It Off — Rikk Flohr describes his preparation process. Great ideas for avoiding any number of problems. “I double check my laptop for presentation readiness, arrive at my room early, set up and am ready to start on time. Drink a little water. Have your back up mouse, pointer, presentation on thumb drive and any paper notes where you can find them. Great your guests as they arrive and begin working the room.”

A2J: Migraine — “My presentation on Migraine almost caused me a major headache. Everything fell apart in the last minute and then miraculously came back together in the last second!” Good example of how potentially fatal problems string themselves together.

Nury Vittachi: How not to introduce someone 2 — “People were only given the title ‘Moderator’ or ‘Master of Ceremonies’ if they agreed to have their brains surgically reduced to the size of a sesame seed, I said. Their single remaining brain-call contained only one thought: ‘Make speaker look like jerk.'”

Public Speaking Can Be Fun: Being Prepared for the Public Speaking Unexpected — “Three years ago after a 45 mile bike ride driving home on the Mass Pike, I felt a thump. I looked in my rear view mirror and witnessed my bike flying down the middle lane. The bike flew off my roof rack!”



Overnight Sensation: The Disinterested Audience — “Of all the different types of hostile audiences out there, the disinterested or uninterested crowd can be one of the toughest to address. There are a number of reasons that your audience can fall into this category, such us being forced to attend the event, so we’ll look at what causes an audience to be disinterested and what you can do to bring them around.”

MostToast: Technical Presentation Worst Practices — “I am pretty sure that this is staged. I am also sure that these types of problems happen on a routine basis.”


Presentation Coaching Institute: Presentations Rehearsal… Fact or Fiction? — “First let me define a false sense of preparedness. Glancing over your notes or rummaging through your PowerPoint slides for let’s say five to six minutes before a presentation and thinking to yourself what you will likely say is pretty much a recipe for presentation disaster.”

The PowerPoint® Blog: Open PowerPoint in Safe Mode — “This is one of those – I hope you don’t need to do this – actions. But recently one of the computers here suddenly decided it did not want to have fonts work (line spacing was all messed up).”

Pistachio: While I Talked, People Twittered — “The major downside of this trend that I see is that real-time feedback from a small number of people can force a speaker to unintentionally focus on trying to please that vocal few. This is dangerous if the small but loud group isn’t representative of the majority of listeners. It’s human nature to fixate on criticism, and focusing on the comments of a few audience members can throw a presenter off track.”

confessions of a serial theater lackey: Things I Learned During the REEFER Tech — For our readers on the technical crew. “Climbing a ladder during a strobe test is a bad idea. (In my defense, I was already at the top of the ladder before the test started. However, I should not have climbed down once that strobe kicked in).”

bookofjoe: Why steamship captains studied sailing — Thought provoking quote. For me this relates to when we did 35mm slides.

From alert BML readers…

A couple of alert BML readers were kind enough to send me a couple links to share. One is useful in a practical sort of way, the other is useful as well as slightly horrifying:

Marcel Oudejans of Perform! Marketing Solutions let me know about a really good Clive Simpkins article, “How to treat your speaker at an event“.

There’s a time-sequence and often a ‘value chain’ of people involved in a speaker arriving at an event. So let’s back-up to the beginning. Whether you’re a private individual within an organisation, a professional conference organiser (PCO), a speaker bureau or an agent, then in the interests of professionalism, all, or some at least, of the following, needs to happen.

Each of Clive’s suggestions can play an important role in making sure Murphy’s Law doesn’t have a chance to come into play at an event. I strongly recommend that you add everything in this article to your standard operating procedures.

– – – – –

Rick Pillars (it’s a rap productions) sent me a link to to a story that boggles the mind. His only comment — “Check out what happens when you do things you shouldn’t while connected to a projector…lol.”

The crux of the story:

That’s when students said the teacher began viewing the videos.

“He forgot the projector screen was turned on and he started watching porn and we were all just like sitting there shocked that he was watching this in front of the class.”

Students said they did try to signal the teacher but he never looked up from his computer.

Note that it says “videos.” Plural.

Although most of us (I hope) would never think of engaging in this particular behavior while on the job, this story still provides a powerful reminder. It’s scary how easy it is for for the wrong thing to be projected at the wrong time unless precautions are put in place to prevent it. And in a corporate environment, it doesn’t even have to be pornography to be a career ending event. I’m sure we’ve all seen an accidental projection of an embarrassingly personal email, highly confidential memo or spreadsheet that was never meant for public consumption. For heaven’s sake people, be careful when you’re passing the VGA cable around the conference room table. Think about what’s on your laptop’s desktop before you connect.

– – – – –

If you’re an alert BML reader and come across a link to a story or resouce that might be of interest to other, not so alert BML readers, please send it in. You can use the link to the Contact page above or you can email it directly to lee@leepotts.com.

[Photo credit: Andreas Frank]

It was a disaster…

On this day it is crucial for all of us to remember that the events in our professional lives that we call “disasters” are really very small and silly when we consider the true disasters that many others in the world have lived through.

Ellen Finkelstein’s Survey: “What is Death by PowerPoint?”

When I started Breaking Murphy’s Law, I decided to do everything possible to avoid focusing on presentation disasters involving bad PowerPoint. Although there are as many stories about bad PowerPoint as there are PowerPoint presentations, it seemed best to avoid territory that was already being so thoroughly explored by experts better versed in the relevant issues (Andrew Abela, Nancy Duarte, Edward Tufte and Cliff Atkinson for example).

Ellen Finkelstein is also a member of this group. Her website has been offering tips and techniques on PowerPoint and presenting for over 7 years. She has also written at least three books about PowerPoint. Most recently, she created a survey to measure the depth and breadth of the bad PowerPoint problem.  It’s called “What is Death by PowerPoint?” and it’s unique because respondents take one experience they’ve had of Death by PowerPoint and tell that story by answering some questions. She invites everyone to take the survey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=8btaxwZWsjzcfZf2i5Qjog_3d_3d/.

A basic premise behind Breaking Murphy’s Law is that the sharing of stories is an integral part of our profession. Ellen tells me that she’s sure everyone has had a Death by PowerPoint experience that they would like to rant about. And in case having a chance to rant isn’t enough of an incentive, everyone who takes the survey gets a link to download her 22-page e-booklet, 7 Steps to Great Images.

She’s already received great answers, both sad and funny. For example,

What was wrong with the design? “There was nothing wrong with the design, THERE SIMPLY WASN’T ANY.” W.C., Seattle, WA, U.S.

“Presentation was 246 slides, all full page text. Text was 14 points. Text ran to both edges and to the bottom. Text boxes flew in on every slide. The attorney giving the presentation read every single word on the slide.” R.A., Columbus, OH, U.S.

What was wrong with the design? “Text was illegible so that the presenter sometimes went for rescue on his printed notes. There were all sorts of unnecessary transition effects with sounds like cat meows, car brakes and thunders. Seems that the presenter had done no homework on the content, had only pleased his own strange aesthetics.” Z.P., Pereira, Brasil

I think it safe to assume that Ellen’s survey is going to confirm that there are only a few ways to do thing right and there are many, many ways to do thing wrong.