Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Share your accidents (& saves) on the podium

They don't happen all that often, but sometimes accidents do happen to speakers up on the podium, in full view of the audience--or right before they go on.  Your ability to make a quick save and help the show go on might, under those circumstances, be your most important presentation skill.  A sense of humor doesn't hurt, either. 

Take a lesson from this very visible mishap that struck the master of ceremonies at a special ceremony in Ireland at an event honoring then-U.S. Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith.  At the end of this article on art catastrophes in today's New York Times lies hidden this gem of an anecdote.
To commemorate the event, a piece of Waterford crystal was carved in the shape of an American flag with eagles. It was a big, glittering hunk of glass that would be presented by the master of ceremonies, Donald Keough, an investment banker.

But before Mr. Keough or anyone else could get their hands on the crystal, another speaker heading for the podium brushed past the sculpture. It toppled off the back of the stage.

Mr. Keough looked down at the remains and took a deep breath.

“Madam Ambassador,” he announced, “you’re going to receive more pieces of Irish crystal than anyone in history.”
Sometimes the accident happens to the speaker, as you can see in Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh's post from Twitter, above. Have you had to make a quick save up in front of the audience? Share your accidents and saves in the comments. I'd like to amass a collection of quick-on-your-feet solutions--and they don't need to be grand ones, just what worked for you--to encourage speakers and presenters that we can overcome these hiccups on the way to a memorable talk.

1 comment:

Mark said...

It was my first time out speaking in public for my trade association employer (pre-Powerpoint/LCD projector days). I made the mistake of loading my 35mm slide carousel while chatting with a member company colleague.

I thought I'd loaded all the numbered slides in order, left to right from the top row of the looseleaf holder and into the carousel. As it turned out, about 20 slides in I distractedly did one row from right to left.

Forty-five minutes later I'm into my presentation and I reach the out of sequence slides. I became flustered and totally embarrassed even though I'd made such slide presentations many times before. Not an auspicious start.

Lesson learned: from then on I always loaded and tested the slide carousel BEFORE I left for the venue and always carried it en route.