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Presentation Mishaps A to Z: A is for Anger

Of all the possible responses to an emergent presentation disaster, I think it’s safe to say anger is the most foolish. Yeah, I know, this isn’t a particularly fresh observation —

Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, For anger resides in the bosom of fools. (Ecclesiastes 7:9)

— but it does bear repeating.

Given a choice between working with someone likely to curl up into a quivering fetal ball when things are going wrong  and working with someone prone to venting their anger in the same situation, I think I would go with the fetal ball rather than the venter. A fetal ball can be guided to a quiet corner somewhere to whimper quietly while everyone else sorts things out.  The anger of your basic hothead tends to spread and escalate in a reflexive feedback loop that has the potential to drag most of your team into dealing with the emotion (including fight and flight responses) rather than working the problem.

The way to deal with feedback loops is to, wait for it, break the loop. Reduce the amplification by responding quietly to the hothead’s outburst (see “The Valium Bubble“). Absorb, don’t reflect. Sometimes the simplest way to deal with audio feedback is to turn the speakers slightly away from the microphone. Sometimes you just need to simply turn away from someones anger in order and avoid sending it right back.

At least until the crisis has passed.

(Disclaimer: This post should not be read as criticism of a tightly controlled tactical anger used on rare occasions to guide and inspire team performance. I am taking to task the uncontrolled, unthinking anger generated by anxiety arising from unexpected, negative events that could lead to a presentation’s failure.)

One last thought (it’s not my thought, but I can’t remember where I heard this): All anger is actually fear, and all fear is fear of loss. Figuring out,  in the most specific way possible, what the angry person is afraid of losing can often put you in a great position to alleviate the fear and to perhaps find the leverage necessary to dial down the anger.

The Weekly Might Have Missed List (09/28/08)

Blue Room technical forum: Wifi interfering with Radio mics, Strange goings on — “The strange problem we are having is that at some venues we seem to have a conflict between the radio mics and wifi, whilst at other venues there is none. When there is conflict, the signal stength on the Sure recievers is all over the place (normally rock solid in this size venue) and the signal drop out is very high, this occurs over all frequencies in the group. With all radio mic transmitters off, there is no sign of a signal being picked up from the wifi on the Sure recievers. Looking at the frequencies used by the mics and the wifi there should not be a conflict, but there most definately is at times.”

Speak Schmeak: What not to do at the end of a presentation — “We plan a lot for what to do before and during a presentation, but not much for what to do at the end — or what not to do.”

The Codebelay Blog: How Do You Avoid Presentation Disaster? — “But the code used for my presentation didn’t work because the machine it was working on wasn’t configured correctly. There might have been an issue with someone overwriting my code, too.”

Dave Paradi’s PowerPoint Blog: Presenting when you are not allowed to use a handout — “A participant in one of my workshops recently presented me with a new challenge. In his position as a sales professional, he has now encountered two large organizations who have stated that when he presents to them, he is forbidden from bringing handouts for the audience.”

Lynn Espinoza: When YOU should NOT be the spokesperson! — “You’ve been tapped to be the speaker at an industry event.  There is a nagging feeling deep inside your gut that you are being set up for failure.  The content for the speech is not your own, and in fact this is not your area of expertise. You feel like you’re over your head. Guess what? You are.”

Mary Hanna: A day for nitpickers — “The room was full of professional speakers, both beginning and accomplished. The presenter, a well-known marketing expert, was talking about achieving credibility as a speaker. A bullet on his PowerPoint slide, which I was following on the handout, said ‘Always site your sources.’ As I always do, I corrected the handout, crossing out ‘site’ and writing ‘cite.’ I turned to my friend and pointed it out. She acknowledged it with a nod. ‘It affects his credibility,’ I whispered.”

TJ Walker: Should I rehearse and for how long? — “Yes, you should rehearse. From a presentation coach’s perspective, the following 25 words are the dumbest phrase in the English language: ‘I don’t want to rehearse because I don’t want to seem canned. I want to seem spontaneous and fresh so I’ll be better winging it.’ Ugh!!!”

CNET News: ‘Google Moderator’ tool takes on lecture-hall chaos — “There was never enough time for all the questions, and it wasn’t clear that the best questions were the ones actually getting asked,” Heath wrote in a blog post. “And since many of these talks were led by offices outside of Mountain View, it became harder for distributed audiences to participate.”

blogcampaigning: Public Speaking Tips — The last one is best.

Brad Montgomery: What to do when your humor fails? — “When I coach others about how to be funny, I teach saver lines. Basically, these are jokes that you tell after a joke goes bad to “save” the situation. Johnny Carson was the king of savers. I just found this video….check out the master.”

KNOWHR: Writer’s Remorse — “Here’s what else I know: Those last-second edits rarely add anything to the quality of the communication.”

Great Speaking Coach: Avoid the Deadly Quotations Trap — “Why not? Because what could be a living, memorable moment when delivered by you with vocal variety and gestures becomes a flat, two-dimensional inert set of words.”

The Power of Reflection: Do You Make This Mistake When Ending Your Presentations? — “Gord’s terrible ending damages his career.  He looks weak and indecisive.  His presentation fails to generate any enthusiasm for his cause.”

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