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Bob McClain: Because I never want to feel that humiliated ever again.

Bob_McClainOnline marketing consultant Bob McClain was kind enough to share a story with BML. It describes the sort of experience that most of us would rather not share with the world, the sort of experience most of us would be doing our best to forget. It’s an important story for us to hear because it’s a great reminder that it’s never safe to take the easy way out when it comes to preparing for a presentation. Kudos to Bob for sending it in.

An Idiot Presents…

A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to speak before a group of government technical communicators at one of their annual meetings. I had been contacted and asked by the organizer to give a short talk on the differences between writing for print publications and writing for websites.

I was flattered to be asked but disappointed that they couldn’t actually pay me anything. Because I wasn’t getting paid, I decided not to invest much time in preparation and simply use an old presentation I had given in the past. That was the beginning of the downhill slide into a very bad presentation.

Because I was reusing an old presentation, I assumed I could “wing it.” I knew the subject very well and assumed I could simply do a quick review beforehand and I would be prepared. Wrong.

I was in the middle of one of my busiest weeks and waited until the day of the presentation to review the subject. The presentation was actually bigger than I remembered and the PowerPoint slides were very basic. This wasn’t a simple “read the slides” presentation. And I couldn’t find my “tickler” notes. So I simply assumed I could remember all my points and ran out the door with my laptop.

When I walked in the room, there were over 50 people assembled. I started to get very nervous because I knew I wasn’t prepared. I set up my laptop and waited.

A woman entered the room and introduced me. I got up, clicked to my first slide and started my presentation. It actually didn’t start too bad. The information came back to me and since I’m a fairly adept speaker and enjoy it, I was able to cover the few spots I was struggling to remember.

Then I got to the fourth slide on Headlines and their importance. This is one of my strongest arguments in website copywriting because of the importance of headlines and so few websites actually use them. There were four bullet points.

I opened my mouth and nothing came out. I drew a complete blank. What brilliant speaker’s secret did I use to cover for my lack of preparation? I said, “Uh…I can’t remember what the details are of these bullet points but you can go to my website and find out what I have to say about headlines on websites.”

Obviously, I didn’t get a rousing standing ovation for that presentation. And to this day, I can remember that bit of stupidity that came out of my mouth when my mind went blank. Needless to say, I never get up in front of a crowd to make a presentation without giving the preparation my full, undivided attention. Because I never want to feel that humiliated ever again.

I think it’s safe to say the that using the word “idiot” to describe himself is overly harsh. A true idiot would not have realized exactly how badly things had gone wrong during this presentation. Thanks again for sharing Bob.

Principles that apply:

1. If you can’t do without it, make sure you won’t have to.

3. If you practice like it’s the real thing, the real thing will seem like a practice.

4. It’s much easier to destroy something by accident than it is to create something on purpose.

Your turn:

Have you ever been humiliated during a presentation you’ve been involved with?  ‘Fess up in the comments section. Email me if you would prefer to remain anonomous.

1 comment to Bob McClain: Because I never want to feel that humiliated ever again.