Saturday, May 12, 2012

Conference Speakers Need A Back-Up Plan


While speaking at a business retreat this week the power went out in the meeting room in the first two minutes of my presentation.  While the electricity came back quickly, the AV equipment was not very cooperative after the reboot.  I had no slides as the projector was not communicating with the computer. While the meeting facility team was scrambling to solve the problem, I had to continue my conversation with the audience.  The communication that mattered was the dialogue with the audience!

Fortunately I often speak without slides, and since my speaking style is built around storytelling, I was able to keep going without hesitation.  The talk took a different direction, but was still on message. After ten minutes the technical difficulties were resolved and I returned to the planned presentation.

I had witnessed a speaker earlier this year bomb her talk because her slides would not advance, and I took note after her disaster to prepare myself for how to respond should I ever encounter a similar situation.  (The sad part for her was her whole talk was her own personal story- it involved no statistics, graphs, charts, or other technical information.  There was no need for her to fall apart when her PowerPoint was gone).

Contingency plans are important for all those who work in the meetings industry (not just the speakers).  The experience of everyone in attendance relies on so many working parts, that any one piece that does not come together can drain the energy in the room.  Couple that with the short attention span of most people, and they will mentally check out the moment they sense something is not going right.  The whole meeting can flop when something goes wrong.  

Having a "Plan B" is a great idea for everyone in any industry.  Those who have considered what can go wrong and how they will handle the bumps in the road are often those who are seen to "think fast" in the face of adversity.  I am not sure these people are thinking faster than anyone else.  Having seen the problems in advance, and knowing how to resolve them, simply means they are prepared.

I was a Cub Scout and a Boy Scout as a kid.  Their motto of "Be Prepared" is one of the best lessons that we can all learn for all aspects of our lives.  Life is full of surprises... and preparation for those surprises can make them minor issues.

My talk this week could have been a flop if I had focused on the technical difficulties (as did that one speaker I saw in a similar pinch).  However, since I had thought through this particular hiccup many months ago I knew how to respond. The power failure was no more a footnote to the presentation. Even if the PowerPoint had never been restored I could have completed the whole hour without cheating the audience of an experience.

What is your "Plan B"?

Have A Great Day.

thom singer


1 comment:

Matt Brennan said...

Excellent post. It pays to have a "Plan B" in everything you do. That way you don't have to stop and scratch your head every time "Plan A" falls apart!