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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The Principles

The first seven of these principles made their debut in this post from October 2008 when they were known as “The Seven Principles of Presentation Disaster Avoidance (Version 0.1 beta).” They are currently referred to in this blog as “The Principles” while I try to find something better to call them (let me know if you have any suggestions). This is a living document and additional principles will be added as necessary.


1.
If you can’t do without it,
make sure you won’t have to.

Have backups of your slide files, have backup for your critical equipment, have backups for your people. Have backups.


2.
Any rational response to
“What’s the worse that can happen?”
is most likely wrong.

This is mainly due to the fact that the things that can go wrong are not limited by a requirement to be rational. Just ask Wall Street. And don’t forget that the person asking this question usually doesn’t want to know the real answer, they’re just ready to move on.


3.
If you practice like it’s the real thing,
the real thing will seem like a practice.

That’s why they use live ammo in boot camp.


4.
It’s much easier to destroy something by accident
than it is to create something on purpose.

Be very careful around fragile equipment, electricity, icy roads and, perhaps most importantly, the delete key. Especially while pulling an all-nighter. You also want to aggressively seek ways to eliminate as much of the accidental from your process as possible.


5.
The diagram is not the room.

Whether it a conference room, ballroom, or theater — see the space you will be working in for yourself. The diagram provided by the venue will not reveal everything you need to know — no matter how detailed and accurate it is.


6.
I
f you’re not early, you’re late.

A simple problem that would ordinarily not require anything more than time to fix can become a fatal error when the time isn’t available.


7.
The ways to get it right are few.
The ways to get it wrong, infinite.

It’s always possible that a string of several very small, seemingly unimportant decisions, can lead to a major failure. Be cautious when it appears a choice can be made casually.


8.
Existence does not equal adequacy.

Having something and having something adequate to the task at hand are two very different things. Just don’t ask if the venue has what you need — get details. Always go and check it out in person if possible. (Added November 2008)


9.
Everyone knows that it’s essential to rehearse,
but not everyone knows how to rehearse what’s essential.

A successful rehearsal has to be about more than just a speaker getting the words, voice, pacing, stage movement and gestures right. It also has to include, in a meaningful way, the easy to overlook “backstage” elements that need to be performed correctly and in unison with the presenter. (Added January 2009)