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.



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It is no longer being updated.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

More Shameless Self Promotion: Nicholas Bate

(Sorry, I don’t want to get carried away with this sort of thing, but you know how it is.)

Author, blogger, business consultant and all around great guy Nicholas Bate was kind enough to name Breaking Murphys Law one of his blogs of the year for 2008.

‘Best Mainstream Topic Handled Differently Blog’ of 2008. There must a billion blogs on presentation skills. But Breaking Murphy’s Law does it differently. A great blog.”

Thank you for your kind words. And thank you for including me such a high-powered group of bloggers (Execupundit, Cultural Offering and Eclecticity). So much for my plan to “phone it in” over the holidays.




Breaking Murphy’s Law was the recipient of a decent flurry of linkage in the last few days. Thought I might return the favor:

Thanks folks, I appreciate it. Glad you like what we’re doing here.

Nicholas Bate: Get there early

Nicholas Bate is, among other things, a successful author and business consultant.  A recent post on his blog not only offered a useful and refreshingly pragmatic pre-meeting checklist, it also dovetailed nicely with a recent post of my own. Nicolas and I both strongly feel that it’s crucial to arrive at the presentation venue early enough to make sure every part of the environment you are about to preform in is in an optimal state. If the first time you step into the meeting room is two minutes before you step up to the lectern, you better be prepared for any number of things to go wrong. The story Nicholas was kind enough to share illustrates how showing up the day before made it possible to get a little extra sleep:

As you will know from Lee’s posts if there is one thing which enhances your chances of a great presentation, it’s preparation. And that’s certainly something I am committed to when I am delivering a work-shop or key-note. The preparation has two parts, ideally. Part 1: a quick ‘recce’ of the room the previous day/evening just to identify any surprises/challenges and get those resolved. Part 2 is getting into the room prior to the delegates to set up and get all perfect for them. This ritual has become tried and tested for me and hasn’t let me down, identifying many problems with enough time for them to be resolved.

Several years ago I was doing a lot of international travel and had just flown back from Boston, USA to the UK (my home). Poor diary management on my part meant I arrived back in the UK the day before my next work-shop. I arrived late at the location, gave the room a once-over and with the hotel staff sorted a lot of issues. Then went to bed exhausted, knowing we started at 0900. I awoke at 0840 having slept through two alarms! I jumped up, showered and grabbed my materials, ran down the corridor and arrived in the room at 0855. We started on time at 0900. The work-shop went brilliantly.

The lessons?

  1. The prior-day check up saved my skin. It’s worth doing if you can.
  2. Jet-lag can cause extreme exhaustion: set plenty of alarms!
  3. Manage your diary to avoid back-to-back big events: your mind/body needs some down-time.
  4. BUT here’s the real lesson. I had no time to do my normal prep on that morning, run through my notes etc., but it went went really well, anyway-which was a real lesson to me that we can over-prepare. That is, if we basically know our stuff (which we should do, of course!) a ‘flow’ state can be reached where by people get an ‘even better’ experience: more real, more connected. Athletes call this being ‘in the zone’ of course.

Something to think about!
Thanks to Lee for inviting me to post

I usually make a point of trying to take a some time to chat with the people who work for the venue when I’m on site. I like to hear their stories about the unusual things they’ve seen happen in the meeting rooms. It never ceases to amaze me how often their stories are about speakers that come bustling into the meeting room minutes before they are scheduled to go on (which I guess means it actually isn’t all that unusual). They hand off their slides to the AV crew on a thumb drive hoping against hope that they will project correctly. They stop for a second so the sound guy can slap on a lavalier (sound check, who has time for a sound check?). They have no time to familiarize themselves with the remote control, the stage, the podium. At this point it’s far too late to change or fix anything that might detract from the audience’s experience. This is the situation Nicholas would have inadvertently been in if he hadn’t taken time to check things out the night before.

Your turn:

Has there ever been a time that you wished there was more time devoted to on-site, pre-presentation preparation? Were you ever really, really glad you had a chance to spend extra preparing? Please share you experiences in a comment to this post.

The Weekly Might Have Missed List (07/13/08)

Nicholas Bate: 9 Things Not to Say in your Presentation — Brilliant.

The Eloquent Woman: testing the kindle on the lectern — “Here’s what I learned about what you should expect when using this new device in a live setting, from preparatory steps to actual use.”

Speak Schmeak: When audience members attack — “Do you ever feel like an audience member is attacking you when they ask challenging questions during your presentation?”

Linkedin Answers: Care to share your most embarrassing, awkward, or unusual speaking experience? Peaks and Valleys of PowerPoint Presentation — “What’s the worst mistake you’ve ever made (or seen) in a presentation using Microsoft’s PowerPoint?”

Corporate Presenter: TV Presenters and animals — “Ouch!”

Presenter Gold: White Death on the Podium — “And yet in a presentation situation, many of us put black text on white screens. I want you to think for a moment about what that’s doing to the audience. It’s been described as trying to read the lettering on a switched-on light bulb.”

Live Musician Central: Settle Your Nerves – Dealing With Stage Fright — “I’ve played with guys that were throwing up before every gig because they got so nervous.”

Services Safari: Delivering a Great Keynote Presentation Part 1 – The Delivery –“I know a person’s a bad speaker when I can imagine my 14-year, with absolutely no advance preparation, could be way more entertaining with the same material.”

Nury Vittachi: — I got the public speaking blues — “I know about these things. Somewhere on earth there is an “Institute of Introducers” at which citizens have all detectable grey matter surgically removed. They are then released back into the wild as certified Masters of Ceremonies.”

Web Strategy by Jeremiah: Fail Fast — “I screw up a lot, always have, always will, but what matters is what I do next. My first presentation to a Forrester client was a total F-up.”

Indexed: A real spectacle. –“Sweating, staring, crowds.”

Make Your Point with Pow’R: Pre-Presentation Speaking — “Remember to speak before your presentation. In some cases, even before you arrive at the venue.”

Jessica Hatchigan’s speechwriting blog: Time Matters: Scheduling Your CEO’s Speeches “Do you have the option to choose the time of day your CEO will deliver his/her speech?”

Great Public Speaking: Public Speaking : SEATING TIPS

Linkedin Answers: The Un-Planned question – the impromtu – throws the best of us, but what are the toughest situations you find yourself confronted with?

9 Months to birthing my BESTSELLER!: Two Words that Make Most Audiences Cringe! — “Which brings me to the last lesson. Do Not, I repeat DO NOT do what I did (you’d have to be really brave or crazy!) Do not use language that will turn some or most of the audience against you!” (Slightly NSFW image)

Charli Jane Speaker Services: Top 10 ‘do nots’ when working with meeting planners.

The Weekly Might Have Missed List (07/07/08)

Post-vacation Edition

Back from a week down the Jersey Shore. Perfect weather, not so perfect internet access. Here are some items you might have missed left over from before I left. I hope to be back to the regular posting schedule later this week.

SpeakerSue Says: The most embarrassing web presentation ever — Some great tips for avoiding common web presentation disasters.

Nicholas Bate: 30 Minutes Before your Big Pitch to 35 People — Great ideas for a pre-presentation checklist.

Speak Schmeak: Be a host, not a guest: :”Checking out the venue in advance is frequently overlooked by beginning speakers, and here’s why it shouldn’t be.”

Laptop Magazine: Common (But Avoidable) Presentation Disasters — “A technical problem is almost guaranteed to occur during a big presentation. Here’s how to handle the most common issues.”

Great Public Speaking: DON’T GO TO THE BATHROOM — I don’t think I would have allowed the AV staff to get away with this. I know I never would have taken it upon myself to move a speaker’s stuff around if I was the AV person.

Authenticity Rules: Concentrate Your Training Room — Don’t let the energy dissipate.

Public Speaking Sucker: Five Ways To Snap Your Audience Members Awake If They’re Dozing Off.

Memo to C-Level Speakers: Turn Your Script into a Roadmap of Ideas — These ideas can also help you format your script so it doesn’t cause difficulties during your presentation.

Live Music Central: How To Handle Jerks, Be Professional — Meant for musicians but interesting perspective for presenters.

Geek News Central: Hilton Hotel Chains Internet Access and other Issues! — Gotta have internet and a desk. Might want to keep out for the promised future reviews.