Murphy's Law states: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong." This is especially true and especially painful when there is an audience involved.

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This blog was active from April, 2008 to July 2012.
It is no longer being updated but will continue to be maintained for reference purposes.

Sticker Shock

Pack a backup? What for? I can always by one when we get there. It’s not like we’re going into the wilderness. I mean, how much can they jack up the price. It’s not going to cost so much that if impacts the budget.

Hot Stuff

It’s always important to have water at the podium. When the AC is out, it’s crucial.

[tweet https://twitter.com/JAD77/status/221722801978081281 align=’center’]

Overheard on Twitter: Never trust the venue!

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Basic Questions Too Often Unasked

(Thanks to Michael Wade for providing the inspiration for this post.)

1) Who will bring the projector?

2) What if the flight is delayed that morning?

3) Where is the presentation backed up to?

4) Are any of the presenters using a Mac?

5) Is that 9 o’clock Eastern or Central time?

6) Are there any protests anticipated at our meeting? In the vicinity of the meeting venue?

7) What time is the hotel going to have the meeting room ready?

8) What if we can’t get online at the meeting venue?

Might Have Missed List (07/17/11)

Gub doo gia bee? (Language Log)

[This post is chock full of all sorts of wonderful things going wrong during a series of presentations at an academic conference. This brief passage represents just a sliver of a very entertaining story]

And the other problem was that, impelled by some irresistible psychological imperative (I saw this later with several other speakers), he instinctively pointed the remote projection controller at the screen, desperately trying to get it to respond. But the computer he should have been pointing the remote at was ten or fifteen yards away on a table in a totally different direction. It was just too counterintuitive to turn 180 degrees away from the screen, so his back was toward it, in order to change the screen image. We humans are simple mammals, and we imagine that what we are focusing on is where the action is. So his clicking away with the remote was not being detected by the computer, and even if it had been detected, he would have had no idea whether anything had happened to the screen as a result.

Presentation Tip: First Impressions Matter (Professionally Speaking…)

Be prepared, with AV equipment checked, handouts sorted and slides ready. If you seem disorganized and rattled over logistics, your audience may assume that your presentation will be equally disorganized.

How to recognize someone for their service to an organization when they can’t be present in person (Conferences That Work)

  • A week before the event, Nancy and I set up a test call with me calling from the laptop I would be using at the conference. It was good we did this, because it took a while to get Nancy’s camera working. We arranged for her to start Skype when she arrived at work, thirty minutes before we would start the recognition ceremony.

  • About twenty minutes before the call, Nancy was not showing up as connected on Skype. I called her from my cell and she assured me Skype was running. I restarted Skype on my machine & this time she appeared. Phew! During the next few minutes, I muted our audio while the audience assembled.

 

Living Room

Dr. Jim Anderson, (The Accidental Communicator), reminds us that controlling the room is much better then letting the room control your presentation.

I’ll bet that you didn’t know that the next time that you give a speech, the room is going to be actively conspiring against you! Yep, it’s true – no matter how cozy and inviting the room that you are going to be speaking in may appear, it is actually working against you. This room has chewed up and spit out tougher speakers than you – what makes you think that you’ll do any better?

It’s absolutely crucial that you get into the room where you will be presenting, well in advance of when you will actually be presenting in it. Showing up 5 minutes before you’re supposed to go on is asking for disaster.

Things to Think About #4: Theater

Because audiences are often small, because no tickets are sold, because sometimes the stage is just the part of the conference room nearest the screen, because standing ovations are few and far between, it can be easy to forget that what you do is theater.

Part of what makes theater exciting is never knowing exactly what’s going to happen during any given performance. Sometime theater can be magic, sometimes not so much

Audience members at a West End play starring Keira Knightley were left baffled when an onstage mishap interrupted a performance.

Stagehands at the Comedy Theatre had to pull down the safety curtain after a chair was crushed as a pillar descended for a new scene in The Children’s Hour on Monday.

. . . .

“Ten or 15 minutes later there was still no announcement but then the curtain went up, there was a different chair and the column had been put back.”

. . . .

A spokeswoman for the play said the chair had been moved slightly off its marked position as cast members exited.

She said: “The nature of live theatre means that occasionally unexpected things happen on stage and need to be sorted as quickly as possible to ensure the smooth running of a show.”

Words to live by.

Getting knocked slightly off your mark (figuratively as well as literally) might get you crushed. Be prepared to get sorted as quickly as possible.

I guess we’re all really lucky that Keira wasn’t sitting in the chair at the time.

Things to Think About #2: Warped Signage

The box Kinkos shipped directly to the venue in Orlando just made it to the hotel in time. Good thing that. No one would know how to get from the elevators to the breakfast buffet without directional signage. You pop it open and slide the signs out of the plastic bag. Looking good, plenty big, tastefully designed, mounted on nice heavy foamcore, easel-ready. You lock up and head to the lobby bar for a quick drink before crashing,  feeling confident that everything will be good to go in the morning.

You descend bright and early and begin making sure the speaker ready room is set up, etc, etc. Time to put out those wonderful signs…

Which are now really badly warped!

The short ends stick up in the air three or four inches. In a panic you start pushing down on the ends but it begins to feel like the foamcore is about to crack in the middle. Not good. They are so bent they fall forward right off the easels. You’re doomed.

Depending on the particular circumstances, it’s very possible that shipping mounted signage into a warmer, more humid climate can cause it to warp and bend to the point it becomes useless. It has something to do with differences in the way the foamcore and the paper the signage was printed on before it was mounted to the foamcore react to the weather.

If you can, try to get your signs shipped down and opened to the air early enough to see if warping is going to be a problem. You can carefully weigh then down as they acclimate to the being in the tropics. I’ve been told the best bet is to carefully and preemptively slide the signs under your mattress overnight.

Just watch out for bedbugs.

Things to Think About #1: Sockets

Sometimes, you’re working in an old venue. Real old. Rooms that have seen hundreds if not thousands of meetings, speeches, dances, rallies, fund raisers, etc. Old things can be well worn. Worn in ways that aren’t obvious.

For instance, there was a chain hotel in Bethesda that we used to use a lot that was old but seemed to be aging well. It looked like the ballroom had been renovated at some point. Newish carpeting, reasonably fresh wallpaper and paint. High tech climate control that kept things too cold digitally. The works. However, the electrical outlet must have been overlooked.

We didn’t need a high-voltage power drop. We only had a our laptops, a switch and a couple projectors so we just plugged into the regular wall sockets. Or at least we thought we did.

This socket had been plugged into thousand of times over the years and there just wasn’t enough friction in there to ensure that what was plugged in would remain plugged in. The weight of the cable pulled the plug half way out of the wall as soon as I let go of it. It wouldn’t stick.

This, of course, could be very bad for our stuff.

We ended up securely taping the cord to the wall just below outlet. No biggie.

Always, always have a roll of gaffer’s tape with you when you’re working.

Might Have Missed List (01/30/11)

MUST READ: MPA Political, LLC  — Unconventional Wisdom: Events

As I looked back on 2010 and saw the great big failures, they troubled me.  Messaging failures, generally unprepared or unqualified campaign staff, candidates unwilling to learn, listen and/or improve, and of course strategies that were designed to fail from the start…  But then there was a feeling of downright anger.  How the hell can Democratic campaigns fail so often at the very basics of setting up an event?  Does no one teach this stuff anymore?  Do people not learn from event to event?  Do they not see the big greasy piles of fail due to some form of rose colored glasses?

. . .

You should visit and walk the venue, take pictures.  Think about where attendees with enter, where they will gather, will there be food/drinks somewhere drawing the mingling crowd?  How many chairs will there be, how will they be arranged, where will the walkways be?  Are there tables?  Sketch these things out as best you can.

Where will the candidate enter the room?  Will the candidate have access to a “green room”, or a restroom, prior to entering the venue?  When they enter, will they be overwhelmed with the crowd as they enter?  Who will walk the candidate in, meet the candidate at the car/bus?  Will someone be introducing the candidate to the attendees as they mingle?  Will the candidate be going straight to the “stage” upon entering to speak, and straight out after speaking?  How will they enter and exit?

The Eloquent Woman — 5 things speakers should ask the meeting planner

Identify room setup. You should ask questions about the room setup, for instance, will you will be behind a podium, or on a panel? If on a panel, will there be seating behind a table or in separate chairs? If chairs, what kind? This may sound rather anal; however, I’ve seen many presenters on panels who did not know they would be sitting in director’s chairs. If you’re a female in a skirt that happens to be too short or doesn’t easily move when you sit down, this could be rather uncomfortable and potentially give the audience a bit too much to see. Or if your preference is to appear behind a podium and organizers expect you to roam the stage in delivering your remarks, it’s probably best to know that before you arrive.

To allow AV or No AV…that’s an important question. Have you ever showed up with PowerPoint in hand only to learn that there’s no equipment for such use? It may happen more often than you think. Finding out the overall format of the presentation is critical as well as allowances for audio visual equipment, including internet access. Sometimes lack of AV could be a budgetary consideration. At other times, it simply may not suit the program. Make sure to ask about it.

The Official join.me Blog — Darth Vader Was Not Invited To The Conference Call

Your dog is not invited.

Sure, I like dogs. Who doesn’t? But we did not invite your dog to the conference call. So if you’re taking this call from home, then make sure your dog isn’t in the room. Because dogs are unpredictable, and before you know it they are barking and the call is ruined. Don’t make your dog my problem.