Don’t Let “Murphy’s Law” Conquer You!
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”– Dr. Martin Luther King, civil rights activist
A significant part of your job as a speaker is to provide your audience with an excellently presented presentation full of information they can immediately apply to their professional lives.
However, another primary job is to ensure you can deal adequately with challenges during your presentation. In other words, this other primary job for you as a speaker is to minimize the effect of “Murphy’s Law” – “What can go wrong will go wrong.”
Your presentations will not be perfect. However, there are several actions you can take to ensure “bumps in the road” during your presentation are kept to a minimum.
Read on to explore three of these actions.
Visit Your Speaking Venue Before Your Presentation
Remember your first day of high school? You were in an unfamiliar school, building, and classroom. On top of this, you were meeting new classmates and a new teacher. How did this make you feel? You probably felt uncomfortable.
You will have the same feeling if the first time you are in the room where you will deliver your presentation is minutes before you deliver it. Your job is not to let this happen.
Familiarity with your speaking venue is one of the ways you can overcome “Murphy’s Law.”
If possible, visit the speaking venue a few days before your presentation. Test out the microphone. Is it a lapel mike or remote mike, or do you have a wire attached? How do you adjust the microphone volume? Bring a friend to your pre-visit. They can help you test out the audio. They can also tell you if the audio is too loud or soft.
If the microphone has a wire, is it long enough to move around the speaking area?
See where the lectern is situated. Is it located in the optimum place for your presentation? If not, can it be moved?
What is the seating arrangement (e.g., theater seating, u-shaped seating, tables with chairs, etc.)? Is it ideal for your presentation?
Arrive at least an hour early so you can greet audience members at the door when they arrive. This is one of the best ways to engage with your audience.
There are several other things to check out at the venue. Don’t miss visiting the venue before your presentation.
Another way to beat “Murphy’s Law” is to have a plan “B” and “C.”
Design for Plans “B” and “C”
When developing your presentation, make a written or type-written list of all the possible things that could go wrong while presenting. For example, a non-inclusive list might include the following:
Computer projection could go blank
The lights go out in the presentation room
The venue room could be frigid
Below are the above-speaking challenges with plans “B” and “C:”
“Murphy’s Law: Computer projection could go blank Plan “B” – Have handouts or your slides ready to distribute to your audience
“Murphy’s Law:” The lights go out in the presentation room Plan “B” – Have a flashlight ready that you can prop up on the lectern to show your face so you can proceed with the presentation Plan “C” – Exercise Plan “B” above
“Murphy’s Law:” Venue room could be frigid Plan “B” – When you get there at least an hour before your presentation, find the event planner or custodian to raise the temperature of the room. However, realizing a packed audience can quickly increase the room’s temperature.
Of course, these are not the only things that can go wrong during your presentation. However, suppose you previously thought about what could go wrong in your presentation during your preparation and have Plan “B” and Plan “C” ready to implement at a moment’s notice. In that case, the chance of “Murphy’s Law” happening goes way down.
So to break “Murphy’s Law,” visit the presentation venue before your presentation and have a plan “B” and “C” to combat the challenges in your presentation.
The following method is not exactly breaking “Murphy’s Law,” but it will ensure you do not make your presentation challenges worse when “Murphy’s Law” happens.
Don’t Announce When Murphy’s Law Appears
Your audience has come to hear a speaker who is organized, speaks well, and has valuable information they can immediately use to better their personal and professional lives.
To a great extent, your audience will not know when “Murphy’s Law” rears its ugly head.
However, I have seen many an inexperienced and sometimes experienced speaker compound the effect of “Murphy’s Law” by acknowledging verbally when it hits.
One of the hardest things to establish and one of the easiest things to lose is your credibility.
When you acknowledge when “Murphy’s Law” appears, it decreases your credibility in audience members’ minds. So don’t acknowledge this during your presentation.
Simply take care of the challenge and move on.
An example of this was in a meeting I attended around a year ago.
As the speaker was presenting, his computer stopped projecting his slides. He immediately gave us an exercise to accomplish. He and the venue’s IT staff fixed the problem during the exercise. He blended the exercise into the point he was making on his slides. This is the sign of a professional speaker.
This professional speaker didn’t think about the exercise on the spur of the moment. Instead, when “Murphy’s Law” was invoked, he simply implemented Plan “B.”
So, your job as a speaker is to break “Murphy’s Law.” You do this by becoming familiar with the presentation venue before your presentation, having a plan “B” and “C,” and never acknowledging “Murphy’s Law” has appeared.
Make plans for these three items before your presentation, and odds are your audience will receive your presentation well.
Call to Action
Visit the venue before your presentation; arrive at least an hour before to check on last-minute items and greet audience members
Have Plan “B” and Plan “C” ready to implement if need be
Never acknowledge to your audience that “Murphy’s Law” has appeared
“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month”– Theodore Roosevelt, twenty-sixth President of the United States
Frank DiBartolomeo is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and award-winning speaker, presentation and interview skills coach, and Professional Member of the National Speakers Association. He was awarded Toastmasters International’s highest individual award, Distinguished Toastmaster because of his outstanding work in public speaking and leadership.
Frank formed DiBartolomeo Consulting International (DCI), LLC (www.speakleadandsucceed.com) in 2007. The mission of DCI is to help technical professionals to inspire, motivate, and influence their colleagues and other technical professionals by improving their presentation skills, communication, and personal presence. Reach Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org and (703) 509-4424.
Don’t miss Frank DiBartolomeo’s latest book!
“Speak Well and Prosper: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Better Presentations”