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Bookmarked: Ann Medlock: A Near TED Experience

Ann Medlock: A Near TED Experience – "Arriving at the conference, I find that my wonderful pictures are in place but the TED-style head mikes aren't working; I'll have to use a hand-held. With a slide-changer remote in the other hand, that pretty much kills any natural gesturing. (Head mikes are the best, and I'm spoiled.) … On stage, gadgets in both hands, I look into lights so bright there's no connecting with anyone in the house. But boy can I see the big digital clock counting down in the blackness at the back of the room. The words start coming from somewhere and I'm off and running."

Bookmarked: Remote Public Speaking The Right Way – CIO.com

Remote Public Speaking The Right Way – CIO.com – "So imagine my distress when I discovered how nerve-wracking a solo webinar performance can be. By the end of it, I was out of breath, twitchy with nerves and having trouble swallowing—like a 12-year-old getting halfway through Debussy's "Claire de Lune" before freezing at the keyboard. (My mother never let me forget that one.)"

Bookmarked: Worst Presentation EVAR | Phinney on Fonts

Worst Presentation EVAR | Phinney on Fonts – "I was trying to do a PDF-based presentation interleaved with a demo in InDesign, but my keyboard stopped working completely when I was in full-screen mode in Acrobat… meaning I also had no way to get out of Acrobat to do the demo! So I had to reboot, re-order my presentation on the fly, and improvise talking through from memory some stuff I had intended to do with accompanying slides, while waiting for my computer to complete the reboot and then for InDesign to launch (which last took 3x as long because I had rebooted while it was running). I also had a cold, so I am clearing my throat every 30 seconds. On top of that, the guy doing the presentation in the next room was REALLY LOUD and somehow his presentation included loud heavy metal music…"

Bookmarked: The three causes of public speaking fear (and what you can do about them) – Speaking about Presenting

The three causes of public speaking fear (and what you can do about them) – Speaking about Presenting – "A few weeks ago I was running a training course. I knew that the CEO would be one of the participants. I felt myself get a little nervous as we were setting up. When he walked into the room I got hot and my heart started racing. Why would I react in this way? I have a demand around CEOs. It goes something like this: CEOs are really important and I must have their approval. My demanding thought made me nervous. What was the result? I messed up the instructions for a simple exercise that we do at the beginning of every course and that I’ve done perfectly hundreds of times before!"

Civility failure

swiftYou may have noticed that, thanks to the recent outbursts of nastiness inflicted by Kanye West, Joe Wilson, and Serena Williams, more than a little ink has been spilled lamenting the current state of public discourse. Here are some random examples grabbed from my feed reader:

Create Your Communications Experience: Handling Hecklers – Obama does it well

Speak to Lead: Presidential oratory, discourse & disagreement – A look back at a kinder time?

USATODAY.com: What happened to civility?

Laura Bergells’ approach was to pose the question: “How will you handle a hostile audience member who wants to hijack your presentation or special moment on stage?”

I think the best way to handle a situation like this is to begin to handle it long before you get anywhere near the presentation venue. Plan for an unwelcome outburst the same way you would plan for any other occurrence that could lessen your chances of presenting successfully. Just like you need to prepare for a projector failure or a sound system failure, you also need to prepare for a civility failure.

We’re talking basic contingency planning here. Decide how likely it is that a civility failure will take place and characterize the nature of the failure(s) most like to occur. Then decide, for the types of civility failure that might actually happen, whether they are likely to cause your presentation to fail. If they are likely to happen and likely to wreck your presentation, plan for them. If there is some possibility of them happening but it’s absolutely certain that they will destroy your ability to continue presenting, plan for them.

For example, in a meeting with an audience of any more than ten or fifteen people, it’s pretty likely that someone’s cell phone is going to ring. A disruption caused by someone forgetting to be polite enough to put the phone on vibrate. It may be very likely to happen, but it’s effect will be negligible so you most likely don’t even need to take it into serious consideration. On the other hand, we have the example of last Summer’s town hall meetings. The civility failures seemed to surprise almost everyone and the early events went very badly. Careful, thoughtful pre-presentation planning became evident once it was clear that attempts to disrupt proceedings were both very likely to take place and very likely to succeed.

When you are preparing to deal with these situations, it’s crucial to remember our old friend, Principle Number 1If you can’t do without it, make sure you won’t have to.  If it look like civility is going to be in short supply at the meeting venue, be sure to bring your own as backup.

And of course, few people know more about civility failure than Dilbert:

Dilbert.com

Bookmarked: The 7 Deadly Sins of Public Speaking

The 7 Deadly Sins of Public Speaking – "Wrath, or uncontrolled anger, is committed by a speaker who handles problems in the worst possible way. As a speaker, you should always remain in control. No matter how bad your presentation is going, keep calm. Don’t let these frustrations provoke you…"

Bookmarked: Gaffing cable to the floor – ControlBooth

Gaffing cable to the floor – ControlBooth – "So, while this may seem nit picky, in the end I say spend a little more time and gaff your cables right the first time around. A good job will save time both during the run and strike, and help keep cables safe backstage."

Bookmarked: SpeakerSue Says…: Presentation Mastery: But they scheduled 45 mins…

SpeakerSue Says…: Presentation Mastery: But they scheduled 45 mins… – "If you’ve given more than three sales presentations, you probably already know that the time they say you’ll have and the time you’ll actually have may have nothing in common."

Moore Speakers: Trilogy of Terror

moorespeakersThe Moore Speakers blog has been on a roll lately, posting three great stories that would cause anyone involved in the presentations biz  to wince in sympathy.

I leaned to the side and caught the falling pants with my elbow. And that is the way I remained during the rest of the talk: one hand holding the microphone and the other arm holding up my pants.

*  *  *

I once plugged a fellow presenter’s flash drive into my laptop, while it was connected and projecting on the screen (with folks milling around in the room) and the guy had a bunch of porn on it, which my adobe image indexer program immediately began indexing. Yes, the photos where showing up as thumbnails (very visible ones) on the projection screen behind us.

*  *  *

Once I was inside the building, I looked down to sign in at the lobby security desk and I saw in my reflection that my shirt underneath my blazer is gone and my bra and the girls are just hanging out there. Apparently, the weight of the computer bag I was holding had ripped the straps of my shirt and pulled it down around my butt.

Thanks for the heads up Lisa.

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.