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The Weekly Might Have Missed List (09/05/10)

Ellen Finkelstein — Outstanding Presentations Workshop

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Phil Presents — Presentation Pitfalls #7: Slide synch (or lack of)

While the speaker was fiddling with his envelope, someone else advanced the slides too quickly, and revealed the winner’s name to all but the speaker before the envelope had even been opened. Doh! Not only did this make the speaker look silly, it made everyone think less of the organization of the event, both for the Powerpoint slip-up and for even using ceremonial envelopes when the winners were already on the slides.

Webinar Crusher — What If I Screw Up A Live Webinar And How Do I Recover?

If you think that your first webinar is going to run perfectly, you’re wrong. If you think that your first 20 webinars are going to run without any problems, you’re also wrong. Things are going to happen. Maybe your Internet connection will die or Go To Webinar will not display your screen correctly. Maybe your PowerPoint won’t show up or you will lose your PowerPoint. You might be all ready to demonstrate a site for your viewers only to find out that the site is down for maintenance.

Instead of crossing your fingers, hoping nothing will ever go wrong, no, that things will go wrong. When these things do go wrong, what do you do? Always have some kind of a backup plan.

No Sweat Presentations! — When You Speak, Don’t Jingle or Deliver Other Distractions!

Other personal distractions could have to do with your appearance

  • A stained shirt or jacket
  • Food on your face or in your teeth (I’m not kidding.)
  • Too flashy jewelry that sparkles too much.
  • Outrageous clothing that ’sends its own message’

There are some preventative measures that can be taken to avoid delivering distractions.

  • Empty your pockets before speaking.  No coins or keys = No Jingle!
  • Have a friend in the audience quietly ’signal’ you if you start swaying or rocking.
  • Put a Post Note on the lectern or on top of your notes or mind map with a reminder
  • Get a good night’s sleep the night before a presentation.
  • Practice – Practice – Practice
    • In front of a mirror.
    • In front of friends and family.
    • In front of a camera.
  • Look in a full length mirror before coming to the lectern.
    • Check:
      • Clothing – zippers, buttons, for lint & hair
      • Self – hair, face

Four Ways Presentation Mishaps Are Like Zombies...

or “Lesson Learned by Watching Shaun of the Dead.”

1) Until the moment they suddenly become mindless, snarling, death-dealing horrors, a zombie (like whatever it was that caused your current presentation mishap) often appears about as threatening as your Mom. A projector with a burned out lamp looks like any other projector. A virus laden thumb drive looks just like a normal, perfectly healthy thumb drive.

2) If you allow yourself to slip into panic mode, the zombie/mishap will either eat you brains or infect you and turn you into a mindless, snarling, death-dealing horror. Stay calm.

3) Zombie/mishaps are a lot easier to deal with one at a time The problem is they tend to travel in packs. And sometimes, dealing with one can attract a whole lot more. Slow and stupid, they can still overwhelm you with numbers.

4) They can be easy to out maneuver, as long as you have left yourself room to maneuver. Make sure your disaster plan leaves your options open. Shaun and his friend are actually doing pretty well until they let themselves get cornered in the pub.

Even the Gecko has technical difficulties

Tech rule #1: Keep the boss away from the buttons…

“tv anchor falls on television”

What’s remarkable is the way she recovered. Great example of grace under pressure. Had the the presence of mind to throw the broadcast over to the weather guy and seemed to be thinking ahead of the people behind the cameras and even the director. Even thought to reassure everyone she was okay in order to head off a bunch of calls to the station switchboard. Now, if only she hadn’t put herself in the situation to begin with by asking the chair to do something it apparently wasn’t meant to do. Is there a reason the chairs are on wheels?

Overheard on Twitter: How do you forget to put the parrot on the checklist?

@GraemeLfx just remembered I’ve forgotten the parrot for my presentation. Disaster ~wardsteve (Steven Ward)

Bookmarked: The Oops Factor (Two Well Read)

The Oops Factor (Two Well Read) – “It is a fact if you perform live, sooner or later you will meet with a genuine, bona fide onstage disaster. Generally, these seem to fall into two categories. The first is the self-made conflagration where lyrics evaporate into thin air, the high note that was there at sound check mysteriously vanishes in performance, clothing falls apart, and stools move themselves about the stage so that you find yourself in a heap on the floor. I could go on, but being the superstitious type I’ll stop here. The second is the stuff performance legends are made of, those moments where, despite your diligent rehearsal and careful plotting of every moment, elements beyond your control enter in and all hell breaks loose. Sometimes it comes from your fellow musicians onstage, sometimes from the tech booth, and sometimes from that ever unpredictable element, the audience.”

[Great stories in the post as well as in the comments. Artistic presentations oops are as much fun business presentation disasters.]

Ian Whitworth: The Worst Presentation of My Life

ianCringing and laughter. Good presentation disaster stories inspire one or the other. Really good presentation disaster stories inspire at least a little of both.

This story, from Ian Whitworth’s blog, Can You Hear Me Up the Back?, ping-pongs back and forth from one to the other so often I lost track and ended up laughing at the same time I was cringing. Usually, when sharing a story that’s already been published online, I post the standard excerpt/link combination. In the case of this particular story, so many things went wrong in so many funny and cringe-worthy ways I had trouble choosing which excerpts to use. Luckily, Ian was kind enough to give me permission to publish it in its entirety. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

The Worst Presentation of My Life

Someone showed me another Steve Ballmer stage moment, in which the big guy cavorts in the sweatiest shirt since Elvis played Hawaii.

Watching it gave me terrible flashbacks to an incident long ago, and prompts the question: what’s the worst presentation you’ve ever done?

We’ve all had them. The speeches where you just want to flee the stage, run to the car park, drive until you’re deep in the forest, and stay there for the rest of your life, living off beetles and wood fungus, safe in the knowledge you’ll never run into anyone who was in the audience that day.

Mine was a speech at an interstate product launch. The day started with preparations for a pre-dawn flight. Stumbling around in the dark I forgot, for the very first time in my business life, to put on deodorant.

Sitting on the plane, I thought: hey, how bad can this be? Maybe deodorant isn’t really necessary, just one of those things that the international hygiene marketing conspiracy has thrust upon us in the last hundred years. After all, the term ‘B.O’ was coined by an ad writer just like me, creating a problem that hadn’t previously existed, to sell more Lifebuoy soap.

Mister Overconfidence Comes To Town

I got to my destination – hmm, warm weather here – and went to the venue for a rehearsal. I’d had a run of good presentations in the previous month, and was full of misplaced, up-and-coming-executive overconfidence. I figured I’d be able to wing it with the new material.

Show time. I stepped up to the lectern with my written notes. The house lights went down to black, for this was the era of weak projectors, and the lectern spotlights arced up. The reading lamp on the lectern? Not there. I couldn’t read a bloody thing.

The armpits went into peak flow. Twin tsunamis of clammy sweat fanned out across my nicely pressed shirt. My mouth filled with some sort of internally-generated tongue anaesthetic. I stared at the audience. They stared at me.

Quick, tell them a story, I thought. I launched into an anecdote. A tried and true, ‘break glass in case of emergency’ story that had never failed to get things off to a good start in other cities.

But I wasn’t in those cities, was I?

You’re Not From Round Here, Are You Boy?

Since then, years of experience has taught me that this is the town where humor goes to die. They hate any attempts at levity. You know the Chinese entombed soldiers that tour the museums of the world? That’s what the audience felt like. Neat rows as far as the eye could see, still, cold, stony. All eyes fixed on a point somewhere on the wall behind you.

Solid gold, guaranteed audience pleasing stories sailed past them untouched and went ‘splat’ against the back wall. I soldiered on, knowing that at least I had a big video finale. A pre-shot interactive thing where I appeared on the screen looking down at the lectern, so I could have a conversation with a less-sweaty version of myself. That would pull the whole show together.

Too Tricky For My Own Good

Or would have, had the under-rehearsed AV guy not started the tape in completely the wrong place, leaving me delivering lines that made no sense whatsoever, like some piece of abstract performance art.

Did I mention that this was a presentation on how to do better presentations?

Any questions? No, just a deep-space vacuum silence.  They’d moved from indifference to outright hatred.

Following me was a presenter from a competitor company, a local guy. He made a few unsubtle jibes about out-of-towners coming in and thinking they could teach the locals a thing or two. Let me assure you, the audience lapped that up.

Internal and External Drowning of Sorrows

Drinking the pain away at a nearby restaurant before the flight home, I heard the sound of sliding shoe leather and ominous clinking. I turned to face the stumbling waitress as she tipped a full tray of beers all over me.

People on the flight home quietly asked to be moved to another seat, rather than sit near the crazy-looking man in the window seat, his suit reeking of BO and beer.

“Mummy, does that man have a mental illness?”

Lessons From All This

  1. You need a major presentation trauma every so often to remind you to be better prepared.
  2. Deodorant is not a consumerism conspiracy, it is a miracle product and we should give thanks for its existence.
  3. No one died. Even when your worst fears become reality, it’ll all blow over and nobody will remember it except you.

Ian’s story is a great illustration of the first two Principles:

  1. If you can’t do without it, make sure you won’t have to. (This usually applies to things like projectors and PowerPoint files, not personal hygiene products.)
  2. Any rational response to “What’s the worse that can happen?” is most likely wrong.

The Weekly Might Have Missed List (07/05/09)

MadTV — Drunk Powerpoint Presentation (Somewhat NSFW)

Wired Presentations — Sometimes a Mistake Pays Off

All is well until a guy in the first row said, “my notes didn’t match what you were discussing.” Someone from the back chimed it, “Mine don’t match either.” Yep, Jeff had been bitten by Murphy’s Law.

It seems that I pulled a chapter from the course management system while the other developer had been working on a different chapter in our common work area

Pivotal Public Speaking — Funny Presentation Training – how many errors can you find?

This is a video produced by a presentation training company as an example of how NOT to make a PowerPoint presentation.

PPTools — Keep the session alive (prevent screensaver, logout problems, mouse jiggler)

Occasionally we get questions about how to keep the screensaver from kicking in, usually from people whose corporate IT people have locked down the computer to the point where they can’t change the screen saver settings themselves. In other cases, the computer may log them out after a period of inactivity.

Blue Room technical forum — Fire alarms vs. haze…

Hit a minor issue at the place I’m currently working at today, as I managed to evacuate the entire school when demonstrating the haze machine… I’m fully aware of the cap over the sensor or isolating the particular part of the building that the haze machine is being used in to solve this problem, but the school (despite a huge amount of persuasion from me) don’t want to do either of those, as they are concerned for the risk implications.

Nothing To Do With Arbroath —Missing cat appears on BBC1’s Question Time

A cat owner only realised her ginger Tom was missing when a friend rang to say she had just seen him – live on television. Tango appeared on screen on BBC1’s Question Time as David Dimbleby, politicians and pundits discussed topics as diverse as the wearing of burkhas, the situation in Iran and MP’s expenses.

The Weekly Might Have Missed List (06/28/09)

poppinsTheater Loop — ‘Mary Poppins’ breaks down in Chicago; Nanny stuck in no-fly zone

A computer central to the new touring production of Disney’s “Mary Poppins” malfunctioned about 15 minutes into Saturday night’s Chicago performance at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, causing the entire show to be shut down and the frustrated audience sent home.

[A couple of the article’s comments seem to focus on the fact that there should have been a backup system in place. Brings to mind BML Principle #1: If you can’t do without it, make sure you won’t have to.]

Speak Schmeak — How to aggravate your audience

Audience members became more and more agitated, yelling out, “We can’t hear you!” and “Louder!” It didn’t seem like the officials even understood what was going on. A sound person would periodically run up on stage and fiddle with the sound system, then go back and sit down, but nothing changed.

Control Geek — Virus Check Fail

Chapter 4 of my book is System Design Principles and one of the things I talk about in that chapter is the impact of virus checkers on the computers we use for live shows.  And here’s why…

Open Loops — Presentation Mistakes: The View From the Audience

Know how to work your equipment – Don’t turn off your own digital projector in the middle of your presentation due to your own incompetence.

Rick Pillars: Crash Into Me

Veteran AV pro Rick Pillars, (It’s a Rap Productions) sent in a great story:

©iStockphoto.com/DivaNir4a

©iStockphoto.com/DivaNir4a

Once upon a time I supplied audio visual labor to clients both locally and from all over the nation. We had some interesting times. This one time we were setting up a pretty large show. The union labor that was supposed to set up the set never showed. So, I was asked to get some labor quickly. I did the best I could and we were successful.

What makes this story take a twist though is what happened during the set-up. During the actual production, the CEO of the company was going to come busting through a styrofoam set off to the side on a rare and vintage Harley, drive up a ramp onto the stage, act like he was using Bond like karate moves on a couple of stuntmen and rescue the fair maiden. Then he was going to get back on the bike and ride out through the audience. Sounds good right?

With a room full of techs of various sorts and set builders and lighting personnel and other folks as well, he decided to have an impromptu rehearsal. No one knew but him and a few other people. Work was not called to a halt in order to give him room. Gear was not picked up and moved out of the way.

I walked out of the room as he began his rehearsal and came back in just as he was about to head down off the stage. I was walking towards my projectionist to tell him something when I heard the roar getting louder. I look to my right and here comes this motorcycle heading straight for me. I had a few seconds to think about what I was going to do. I chose to stand still like a deer caught in the headlights. My thinking was that he wouldn’t know which way I was going to go and we had a 50/50 chance that he was veer into me whichever way I went. I figured once he saw me not moving either forward or backward he would adjust and flow around me either way.

Uh uh, instead he just laid that beautiful bike down on it’s side and let it skid towards me. At that point I calmly stepped out of the path. He jumped off and with it still in gear he began yelling at me about not moving out of the way. I explained my reasoning and it shut him up, but I still got an angry look as he stalked off.

I asked the bike’s handler about it just to see if I did the right thing, and he said that I had nothing to worry about. I did act correctly. He said that if anything, the CEO should have never managed to get it into 3rd gear in such a crowded room and that he would be paying for the damages. There were big long set screws laying all over the place as well as AV equipment and quite a few people. He could have seriously hurt someone or himself.

You’ve got to give the CEO credit, at least he had enough sense to know he needed to get some rehearsal in. Of course he might have just wanted more time on that sweet vintage bike. Wonder if he would have been as anxious to rehearse if it involved some high-powered PowerPoint rather than the rescue of a fair maiden. In any case the rehearsal he did get would have been a lot more useful if time had been taken to plan things out, to clear the decks, and to make the environment he was working in as much like the actual show conditions as possible (remember Principle #3: If you practice like it’s the real thing, the real thing will seem like a practice). Maybe the spill he took actually made him more cautious during the actual event and saved some lives. Maybe it just made him more nervous and everyone was lucky there wasn’t a repeat performance.

As intense as meetings can get, most of us will never face a situation that threaten us with bodily harm. Did you ever find your self in a situation that had your life flashing before your eyes while in the line of duty?