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The Weekly Might Have Missed List (11/30/08)

Virtual Meeting Success: Disaster Preparedness for Teleconference Nightmares — “At first people thought it was static. But, they soon realized that one of the participants was snoring. And everyone heard it! The snoozing participant had forgotten to turn on his mute button. There was nothing to do but ride it out. Sound familiar? Well, I would have thought it couldn’t get worse. But it does.”

©iStockphoto.com/anthonyjhall

©iStockphoto.com/anthonyjhall

So You Want To Be a Banquet Manager…: Wadda Mean It’s Raining in The Meeting Room? — “Just then someone bellows over the radio, “It’s raining in the meeting room”! “Hurry up, call Engineering”! Well there goes my perfect day. Now you’re racing to find every bucket, bus-tub, unused Lexan and garbage can, to catch the water racing out of the broken pipe from the room upstairs. Son of a b@>\#!. We try to dry the special notebook binders that the group contact spent 2 hours last night putting at each placesetting. We change the flipchart pads ’cause the’re a mess.” (I’ve had burst pipe problems at two meeting at two different venues. It’s a hard thing to prepare for but you need to have some sort of contingency plans for it.)

Humor Power: When Humor Mis-Fires (Part One) and (Part Two) — “Molly laughed. The rest of the audience didn’t. I instantly realized that the audience didn’t understand the closeness between us. They also didn’t know that Molly appreciated the humor. At that point, I completely lost them. But it wasn’t their fault. It was mine. I should have known better. Have you ever said something stupid in your presentation?  Wow! As soon as the audience reacted, I knew I had messed up! I explained the background behind my comment, and then moved on.”

portfolio.com: Making Magic: “Steve Cohen, the ‘Millionaire’s Magician,’ shares some tips for winning over a well-heeled audience, including why you should never wing it and the importance of having backup plans.” For instance: “‘It’s essential to have backup plans—not just one, but several,’ says Cohen. ‘The key is to know all the things that could possibly go wrong.'” I like the way this guy thinks. Thanks for the heads to Olivia from Speaking about Presenting.

Musings: Crisis Management — “The first few hours/minutes/moments are the most crucial and most of us lose that in panic. Instead of thinking of the possibilities we start thinking of consequences, which really is no help at this juncture.”

projo.com: Workplace etiquette — “What do you do about a constant interrupter? I’ve run into this situation in meetings, conference calls, etc. I can’t really say if the interrupter is being rude or just antsy. I find it to be extremely irritating, and it throws off my concentration, especially if I’m giving a presentation.”

CIO: How To Get the Best Internet Connectivity While You Travel — “One business travel irritation is that it interferes with getting work done. If you have to give a presentation in New York tonight, and you need to create the PowerPoint presentation before you arrive, the problem isn’t as much the time spent enroute than how much you can accomplish on the trip.”

Acronym: Remote Troubleshooting — “We’ve all experienced technical difficulty with our computers at some point and some of us have had the opportunity to experience remote assistance. In my case, while offsite, I called my company’s IT department and requested assistance.”

Indezine: Cross Platform PowerPoint — “Cross-platform hiccups happen for more than one reason – it’s not unusual for the same company to have both Windows and Mac machines, or there might be a requirement to create an important presentation that needs to be compatible with whatever platform a client has. It might be that the designer hired to create a presentation or a template might use a Mac when the presenter is using a Windows machine – or even vice versa. Regardless, the differences between the Windows and Mac versions of PowerPoint have been giving presenters a fair share of problems.”

The Producer’s Perspective: We go to theatre to see if someone will #$&@ up — “Wigs falling off, technical screw-ups, and so on, are all things Producers spend millions trying to avoid, but ironically, audiences treasure them . . . and talk about them.”

Shameless Self Promotion: PowerPoint Ninja

Brent Dykes, PowerPoint Ninja, was kind enough to add Breaking Murphy’s Law to his collection of presentation and PowerPoint resources:

There are many blogs that touch upon these subjects, but only a subset of them are compelling and insightful.

* Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen blog
* Jan Schultink’s Slides that Stick blog
* Lee Potts’ Breaking Murphy’s Law blog
* Geetesh Bajaj’s A PowerPoint Blog

Being mentioned in any group that includes Garr, Jan and Geetesh is pretty cool in and of itself, but being described as “compelling and insightful” by a professional of Brent’s caliber is far more than I ever expected. Thanks!

Turkey Days

Do you expect to be attending any important business meetings in the United States this coming Thursday or Friday?

©iStockphoto.com/Suzifoo

I didn’t think so. It’s safe to say a that large percentage of my readers are expecting to spend this Thursday (Thanksgiving) through Sunday eating, drinking, shopping and hanging out with family and friends.

However, say you had absolutely no choice but to hold a meeting this Friday due to extremely desperate circumstances. Perhaps there is emergent fallout from a worldwide economic crisis that has to be dealt with immediately. Unfortunately, this situation isn’t as unusual as it once was.

Needless to say, it’s not out of the question that a meeting could take place over the Thanksgiving holiday. BUT, you can be absolutely certain that an experienced meeting planner will take the date into account and will make special plans to ensure things go smoothly. For instance, chartered flights might be used rather than commercial airlines. Special arrangements might need to be made for accommodations due to all local hotels being booked solid. Arrangements that would ordinarily be considered routine and low risk might need to have several levels of backup just to be certain everyone is where they need to be when they need to be there.

What about other dates that are equally disruptive but aren’t as well know as Thanksgiving? For instance local holidays or events.

I was once involved with preparing a presentation for a major meeting mandated by a federal agency that just happened to be slated to take place in early Spring in Washington, DC. Imagine our surprise when we discover that it was virtually impossible to find enough hotel rooms for our entire team. It turns out our meeting was taking place right in the middle of a little local event know as the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

“More than 700,000 people visit Washington each year to admire the blossoming cherry trees that herald the beginning of spring in the nation’s capital.”

We ended up staying in the far suburbs at a non-preferred hotel and had to make special arrangements to be sure we all got to the actual venue on time for the meeting. If I remember correctly, these arrangements included a very early morning departure and a massively unpopular boxed breakfast on the bus. Overall the meeting was a success but I can’t say for sure that we arrived primed to reach peak performance levels.

We saw the cherry blossoms through the bus windows on the way into and out of town and, believe it or not, we found them less than charming.

Just to be on the safe side, if you are planning a big meeting or giving a high-stakes presentation, check well in advance to see if there are any local “turkey days” that might have an impact on you calendar decisions, travel arrangements or the way you prepare to present. This is especially important if you will be depending on local resources to help create presentation materials or if you need a lot of hotel rooms.

Hope you all have a great holiday. I’ll be back on Sunday with this week’s Might Have Missed List. The only venue-related planning I’m going to be doing this week is figuring out how to claim the comfiest chair in my sister’s living room after doing serious damage to a turkey day dinner.

Related resource:

HotelChatter — Stranded at the Airport Over Thanksgiving? Check-In At These Hotels

Your turn:

Are there any local events or holidays where you are located that might have an negative impact on a meeting or on someone’s ability to present that aren’t well know outside of the immeadiate area? Have you ever fell victim to one of these local events or holidays? Have you ever seen the cherry blossoms in DC?

The Weekly Might Have Missed List (11/23/08)

We have a ton of really great links this week. Enjoy!

a shel of my former self: Connecting to the Net in 1992 — Great story from the bad old days. “We found the AV tech and explained that we had requested a direct line. ‘Right,’ he said, ‘and that’s how you get a direct line.’ Patiently, Craig explained how a modem works. He unfolded the contract and pointed to the section that listed the requirement. Then he said (and I can still hear it today, 16 years later), ‘Over 100 people will arrive here in 45 minutes expecting to see an online demonstration that we can’t deliver without a direct line. And at Lexis-Nexis, we have two floors of lawyers with nothing much to do who would love to to make your life miserable over this.’

Dave Paradi’s PowerPoint Blog: Plan what happens before and after your presentation — “The projector wasn’t needed the whole time, just for this one part. And when that part was over, it would not be needed again. Unfortunately, the people running the meeting didn’t plan what to do before or after the projector was used. They left the edit view of PowerPoint on before the slides were used and returned to the edit view after they were done. What could they have done better?”

Danny Thorpe, Architect of Disruption: Mashup Camp, Day 1 — “To make matters worse, the presenter had to talk his way around a number of technical difficulties, including (but not limited to): [ed. note: go to post to see list of technical difficulties]. All of that in 25 minutes. It’s a reassuring to know that even Google can have “those” kinds of demo days.”

Life in the Corporate Theater: Customer Service — “Since the first day onsite my meeting planner friend has been telling me horror stories of the service the AV company is providing. The first one starts off with something simple…”

End Point Corporation: OpenSQL Camp 2008 — “My talk on MVCC was the first talk of the day, which of course means lots of technical difficulties.” What does that say about the current state of the industry?

Make Your Point with Pow’R: The basics are the basics for a reason — “I have given presentations in the past with this laptop and projector, so what could have changed? Puzzled at first I soon realized that I replaced my laptop a few weeks ago. The new one looks the same as my old one and I forgot that I had not tested this combination yet. Thank goodness for rehearsals.”

James.Random(): Behind the scenes at PDC: The Keynote Timelapse — Has nothing to do with the actual presentations, just very cool to watch. Notice how early in the process they begin to test/calibrate the projection system. And how often they recalibrate. “I’ve just uploaded this cool video which I got hold of internally that shows how the PDC08 keynote room was assembled, used and broken down in under 6 minutes.  It’s quite impressive how it all comes together, just for a few hours of presentations!”

BizBash Los Angeles: Emergency Preparedness Panelists Stress Early, Detailed Security Measures — “Last week—just ahead of the destructive fires that burned a swath through the region—BizBash gathered Los Angeles planners for a panel on  emergency preparedness at events. … Here are some of their top tips for being ready for anything.”

Executive Speech Coach: Fire Alarm During Your Presentation — “I’ve witnessed this happen to two other speakers and this week it was my turn. It’s a lot easier to think logically after it is over. It might never happen to you – but perhaps you should be prepared for the fire alarm to ring during your presentation. About eight minutes into my breakfast presentation to the local chamber of commerce at a fancy restaurant the fire alarm rang.”

HotelChatter: Fires Cause Evacuation of Four Seasons Manele Bay: Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking things like this can’t disrupt your presentation, meeting or event. “Brushfires on Lanai — which burned about 300 acres today — caused the evacuation of all guests and staff at Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay. The fire was about a mile from the hotel when the Maui County Fire Department order the hotel to evacuate everyone to Manele Bay Harbor and onto boats.”

Rules of Thumb: Giving a Speech — “When giving a public science lecture to a general audience, there will always be one weirdo who asks questions that have nothing to do with your lecture. There will also be one smart-aleck who asks questions to show how smart he is. The faster you silence both of them, the happier your audience will be.”

Execupundit.com: Ambushed By Minor Items — “What surprises me is how often otherwise savvy individuals get to a certain point in planning and then suspend all scrutiny, relying instead upon a combination of hope, fate, and pixie dust. Things do not magically come together, but they don’t just trust on that convergence, they rely upon it.”

iGroupNews: Top 10 Services and Facilities A Meeting Planner Should Identify — “When I travel to a destination for a site inspection or to assist with a client conference, I always make it a point to arrive a day early.  An early arrival allows me time to “walk” the city and gather information that a client or attendee may require outside of the confines of the hotel.”

Next Generation Event: Resources for Running Effective Meetings — “If you’re an event planner, you know how to plan events. When you’re planning an event, you leave no detail undefined. When you execute the event, you follow clearly-defined schedules and guidelines. But do you sometimes neglect those standards when running small meetings within the office? “

Two things you need to do right now…

…to prevent presentation disaster later.

(Assuming you haven’t already done so.)

1) Make a boilerplate packing list:

Leaving something behind is one of the surest ways to screw up your ability to present successfully. It’s also one of the most preventable. If you are involved in more than two or three presentations a year, you really gotta make sure you aren’t re-inventing the wheel each time you’re about to go on the road. Formalize your packing routine by making, and reusing, a boilerplate packing list.

Let’s face it, you’ve most likely already made this list. And made it. And made it again from scratch for every trip you’ve taken. Even though it’s really gratifying to do so, don’t aggressively scribbling out each item as it’s packed and don’t chuck out the used up list as you head for the door. Next time, just put a single line through each item so you can still read it, and leave it safely on your desk so it can be keyed into an Excel spreadsheet once you return.

You now have the first draft of a permanent, custom, validated packing list. This is going to be a living document and items will be added and removed on a regular basis as you remember things you forgot to include, as old tech is abandoned and as new tech is adopted (floppies to ZIP disks to flash drives). At least you now have a baseline list to start from for future trips and you can sleep well knowing that all of the essentials are covered.

And even if you’re not sleeping well (perhaps due to pulling an all-nighter finishing the PowerPoint), you can still do a good job of packing everything you need in spite of your sleep-deprived brain not working at peak efficiency.

This is a list which was taped inside my closet when I was reporting more or less steadily. The list enabled me to pack, without thinking, for any piece I was likely to do. … It should be clear that this was a list made by someone who prized control, yearned after momentum…

~Joan Didion, The White Album

2) Make a “must have” plan:

Once you have a really comprehensive packing list that’s gotten you through a couple presentations, print out a copy and take a good look at it. Highlight each item that’s critical to your presentation success — the things you absolutely cannot do without. It might be your passport, your projector, the cable that connects you laptop to other projectors. It will almost definitely be your slide files.

For everything you highlighted, all of your must haves, make sure you have a fool-proof, bullet-proof, weather-proof, everything-proof plan that guarantees it will be available when and where you need it.

The creative, problem-solving frame of mind necessary to save the day when one of your must haves is missing or malfunctioning can’t be reliably invoked when you’re in the high tension, on-site environment the day (or hour) of your presentation. Contingency plans are best made in the calm quiet of your office weeks or months before the event.

Your Turn:

Do you have a boilerplate packing list and a solid “must have” plan? Did one of these tools ever save you butt? Would you be willing to share the story?

Baby it's cold outside...

©iStockphoto.com/bbeltman

©iStockphoto.com/bbeltman

We’re experiencing our first real cold snap of the season here in the beautiful Philadelphia Metropolitan Area so it seems like a good time for a quick, weather-related warning/reminder.:

If your presentation equipment has been allowed to get very cold during transport (maybe because it’s been in your trunk instead of the nice toasty back seat for example), take it out it its case and give it plenty of time to warm up to room temperature before plugging it in and turning it on.

This is especially important for projectors. I’ve never seen it happen, but it’s not unheard of for a projector lamp to explode when going from being off and very cold to suddenly being on and very hot (betterlamp.com — see tip #4). This situation can create a nasty, expensive, dangerous mess that you do not want to experience.

And although there isn’t any danger of something exploding, you should take the same precaution with your other equipment. In the case of stuff like computers or switches, the problem will be an excess of moisture from condensation messing with the delicate electronic bits inside.

It’s probably safest to avoid letting your equipment get so cold in the first place if at all possible. In other words, take care of your projector and it will take care of you.

The Weekly Might Have Missed List (11/16/08)

©iStockphoto.com/Gerville

©iStockphoto.com/Gerville

PowerPoint Ninja: 8 Tips for Effective Team PowerPoint Presentations — Great suggestions from someone who has obviously lived this situation. “When you’re working independently on your own PowerPoint slides, you have full control over the outcome of your presentation. Coordinating a PowerPoint presentation with other individuals introduces new challenges, which can frustrate even PowerPoint ninjas who are caught unprepared.”

Bridget M: Power Point for dummies, publishing for nit-wits — Things did not go well for this academic presenter. “The version of my presentation that was uploaded onto BB was not the final one…. It broke, I heard a bead bounce and hit the floor, then another.

The Trap Room: Worst outcome from a missed cue — We need to remember that theater was, of course, the first form of presentation. This forum thread shows once again how many way there are for things to go wrong. Even for the professionals. For example: “My WORST fouled cue occured during a somber opening scene. The dramatic opening music automatically faded in the mini-disc cue, the actress began her quiet opening monologue and I pushed “pause” with the fader still up on the mixer.  Yup, the deck had already auto-paused and the next recorded cue was a “toilet flush” now routed at full volume over the main speakers.”

Tod Maffin: The “3-3-3″ Pre-Event Client Calls — “I always make three phone calls to my speaking clients prior to the event.”

Speak Schmeak: I can’t hear you… — “At my networking event the other night, I noticed two problems that just about every speaker had with the microphone, and I want to pass this along as a quick reminder”

Execupundit.com: Crisis Prevention by Introspection — “Some not-so-obvious questions to avoid disaster”

washingtonpost.com: When Colleagues Talk Out of Turn — “What do you do about a constant interrupter? I’ve run into this situation in meetings, conference calls, etc. I can’t really say if the interrupter is being rude or just antsy. I find it to be extremely irritating, and it throws off my concentration, especially if I’m giving a presentation.”

The Intelligencer: District denies committee projector — “The Central Bucks East Stadium Committee had a PowerPoint presentation to show Central Bucks school board members this week, but wasn’t allowed to use the school district’s projector to show it.”

Web Worker Daily: Getting Charged Up to Work in an Airport — “It’s 5 o’clock on a Thursday afternoon and you managed to get through airport security on your way home, with half an hour to spare to check your e-mail and make phone calls. But your electronic device of choice is low on power. Do you know where to find an outlet to recharge and work before your flight leaves?”

The Extreme Presentation(tm) Method: Advanced Presentations by Design now available as an ebook.

Backstage at BackstageJobs.com: Preparing for festivals — “If your theatre company has been asked to participate in a festival with a particular production, it can be quite a thrill and learning experience. But there are things to keep in mind when bringing your production to a festival. Being prepared can be the difference between a good experience, or a painful one.” Same goes for taking your presentation on the road.

Strategic Guy: Presentation Prep and Packaging — Did personal style in dress and presentation method diminish this presenter’s effectiveness? Interesting situation. Interesting discussion in the comments.

Overheard on Twitter: Imagine That

#seattlecodecamp murphys law strikes a presentation! If it presentation needs the network it won't be available. Jeff tucker called it. ~darkxanthos (Justin Bozonier)

#seattlecodecamp murphys law strikes a presentation! If it presentation needs the network it won’t be available. Jeff tucker called it. ~darkxanthos (Justin Bozonier)

Principle #8: Existence does not equal adequacy

[UPDATE: This post outlines an addition to “The Principles”. The post that started it all is here. The most up-to-date version will be maintained at breakingmurphyslaw.com/the-principles/.]

A couple weeks ago, when I posted “The Seven Principles of Presentation Disaster Avoidance (Version 0.1 beta)” I knew two things right off the bat (even before all the great reader feedback I received):

  1. The title of the post didn’t do it justice. It was lame. Flat. It used the word “avoidance” for God’s sake. I’ve been kicking around other ideas. Please let me know if you have any suggestions.
  2. It would be a mistake to put the number of principles in the title because no matter how many I was able to come up with for the initial post, more were bound to follow.

And follow they did.

Here’s the first:

#8 Existence does not equal adequacy.

This somewhat poetic passage from a recent Ratphooey Live Journal post illustrates the principle in action:

I am writing this from a conference center in State College, PA.

A conference center that’s supposed to have wireless internet access.

Two measly bars does not wireless internet access make, my friends.

I had to walk down the hall to get a decent signal.

See what I’m getting at? If you were diligent and called the conference center ahead of time, anyone they allow to answer the phone would have told you that they have wireless internet access (“of course we have internet access”). However, having something and having something adequate to the task at hand are two very different things.

For instance, if you were downloading the most recent version of your presentation, the one containing the emergency, last minute slides with all of mandatory changes dictated by the CEO, and it was 15 minutes before you were due to go on, and you only had two bars, the wireless internet access, for all intents and purposes, might as well not even be there.

Some other presentation requirements that are susceptible to this issue:

  • Document duplication capabilities (“We have a copy machine” might mean an obsolete desktop unit without a document feeder that jams on every third page and doesn’t collate/staple). Always be sure to find out where the nearest Kinkos is before you leave.
  • On-site AV support staff (“I’m more a sound tech”, he said as he hit the automatic keystone correction button on the projector over and over again trying to figure out why the left edge of the image kept getting cut off.) If it’s you own equipment, you have a responsibility to know it inside and out. If it belongs to the venue, you might be out of luck.
  • “Business centers” in that part of the world known more for sipping rum-based beverages on the beach than for supporting high-level business presentations. (Remarkably easygoing hotel manager to distraught meeting planner: “They’re usually open by now, sometimes they don’t come in until the afternoon. Come check back a little later.”)

Just don’t ask if the venue has what you need — get details. Always go and check it out in person if possible.

Remember principle #1: “If you can’t do without it, make sure you won’t have to.”

The Weekly Might Have Missed List (11/09/08)

Great Public Speaking: Tough Venues — “Did you ever present in a barn? How about a bowling alley? How about a community center where drum lessons are being given in the next room? Well I’ve been in all those situations and more and so far I’ve survived the recurring nightmares and waking up in a cold sweat just thinking about them. I’ve been diagnosed with PTVD — Post-Traumatic Venue Disorder.”

©iStockphoto.com/arekmalang

©iStockphoto.com/arekmalang

Web Worker Daily: Laptops and Water Do Not Mix: A Cautionary Tale — “This past weekend, I was on the web and doing some writing on my beloved Lenovo ThinkPad X40 sub-notebook, when disaster struck.”

The AV Report: Plan B, from Earth (back-up planning in action) — “I believe in a solid AV set-up, with all details considered, so that audiovisual presentations (slide shows, audio, video, multimedia, special film screenings, etc) play back in as flawless a manner as possible. However, being an earthling from Earth, I know the gods can be crazy from time to time.”

Jackie Cameron: Memories of a really bad speaking experience — “A couple of weeks later I received a tape of the session – and the audience feedback. I listened to the tape and cringed.”

Presentation Skills: Presentation Stories — “When I agreed to give a presentation to 26 soldiers from the former Yugoslavia about the Tribunal, I had no idea so many things could go wrong in a 25 minute presentation.”

The Experience is the Product: 5 sentences that send your audience lunging for their Blackberries/iPhones — “’OK, hang on a second, having some technical difficulties…’  Projectors are not known for their usability.  That said, there aren’t too many variables: a couple types of cables, a couple settings, a few places to look for projection/monitor settings on your laptop.  I learned them.  If you’d rather waste my time than learn them yourself, I’m a lot less inclined to listen to you.”

The PowerPoint® Blog: Before Ungrouping Chart – Make a Hidden Backup — “For many projects I find myself ungrouping charts for custom animations or any number of other reasons. But what often happens is a need to adjust the chart… oops that chart is now 50+ individual text boxes and autoshapes.”

Make Your Point with Pow’R: Innovative time tips when you don’t have a designated timer — “Do you lose track of time when you are presenting? Every presenter is subject to going overtime and getting off schedule. Going over time is an occupational hazard of public speaking, but you have no excuse for going over time.”

Indezine: Version Hell: PowerPoint 2007 Shadow Problems — “If your presentation uses the Formatting toolbar to add shadows to text, you’ll find that it shows fine when played in PowerPoint 2007. However, any shadows that you add through the Drawing toolbar in PowerPoint 2003 or earlier end up looking horrible in PowerPoint 2007 — this works out more worse when the text is animated — in that case the text animates, but the shadow doesn’t!”

RULESofTHUMB.org: ASSURING SUCCESS — “To succeed against all possible odds, count on at least 1 in 4 things going wrong. In other words, you need a 33 percent margin of safety. If you have to have 30 of something, plan to make 40.”