Monday Morning Quick Tip: Be Prepared

Robert Bayden Powell - Founder of the Boy Scouts

At some point when you face an audience, disaster will strike. The projector will blow out, or the power will fail, or the road crew outside the venue will choose the most important part of your speech to fire up the jackhammer right outside the door.

So, what do you do in that situation? Give up? Shut down and walk out? Yell at the construction workers to shut up and move on? Throw the projector against the wall? Curl up into a ball in the corner and cry?

Never fear! Like the trusty old Boy Scout motto, you’ve come prepared for anything!

When Disaster Strikes

One thing is almost guaranteed in life. Things don’t typically go exactly as planned. That isn’t usually a big deal, we’re a pretty adaptable bunch. However, when you’re in front of an audience who is giving up their time to listen to you, those unexpected snags can be an absolute nightmare.

I’ve been set to give several lectures of late that simply didn’t go according to plan. The space wasn’t set up properly, the technology was malfunctioning, there wasn’t any chalk for the blackboards, etc. etc. etc. I wasted valuable instructional time dealing with silly nonsense. It was infuriating. My time was limited as it was, I didn’t need the added pressure of technical difficulties thrown into the mix.

The effective strategies for dealing with those situations are best expressed through the idea of preparedness. If you know that the thing you can count on is something happening that you didn’t expect, you can plan how you might react. Even though you don’t necessarily know what’s coming, you can still be ready to deal with most of the problems that will come your way.

The Power of Preparedness

You’ll never ever be ready for every disaster that comes your way. It’s just not going to happen. The more you try to make something idiot-proof, the more likely they are to make a better idiot. But you can plan for many of the contingencies that will throw a kink into your speech. John Zimmer over at Manner of Speaking gives an awesome two-part public speaker’s checklist for helping you make sure that you have everything that you might need.

But, sometimes you’ll have a blackboard, and no chalk. Sometimes you’ll have a road crew outside jackhammering away. Sometimes you’ll lose the lights and the power. So, the other things you need to be prepared with include a good sense of humor, and a modicum of patience.

If your message is well-prepared, you have all of your contingencies covered on your speaker checklist, and you’ve prepped yourself mentally to deal well with the little frustrations, you’re already 99% better-off than most speakers.

So, no curling up into the fetal position in the corner and sobbing. Buck up, make a joke, and be prepared to make a huge impact on your audience, despite the technical difficulties.