A few of us started bandying about some public speaking highs and lows and thought we’d share them. If there’s a lesson to be learned I think it’s something about a back-up plan!
I was in the middle of a meticulously scripted researcher scenario using live internet at an important meeting when the internet went down city-wide. I had prepared lifelike backup slides and no one knew the difference.
Early in my career, I gave a conference plenary about collaboration. It consisted of a dramatic recitation of how wonderfully Canada geese collaborate and how we should emulate them. It established a real theme for the day. The next morning the cover story on the newspaper that greeted us at our hotel doors was about the Canada goose problem and all the approaches the city was trying to get rid of them.
My first public speaking engagement was almost derailed. I had gotten a permit to take the videodisc (yes, Iâ€™m old) â€” that was the basis for my presentation â€” out of the building. But I had gotten the wrong type of permit (a collections pass, rather than a property pass) and the guard wouldnâ€™t let me leave with it. I needed to get to the airport, so I called my boss who took another copy of the videodisc down and out the front door with no pass at all.
For my first major performance, I knew my subject inside out and had prepped a handful of 3Ã—5 cards. I was quite used to talking to crowds of up to about 40. When 400 showed up, I choked. Froze. Literally opened my mouth and nothing came out. Luckily my more experienced co-chair sat me down and gave the presentation I should have.
At an important venue, the table mike failed; then the (replacement) hand mike failed; then the pc failed â€” then the network connection of a new laptop failed. The room was long and narrow and terrible acoustically. I ended up hiking up and down the long center aisle, nearly shouting to an overflow crowd. I was funny, articulate, highly successful, charged up on adrenaline and operating with no notes, no safety net.
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