I had a speaking engagement last week at a conference on teen wellness. I’ve spoken at national events plenty of times and this was a state level event. I’m always glad for the chance to connect with women about wellness and leadership. I had been preparing in the lobby about 30 minutes prior, but now it was 15 minute before and this was my first look into the room since there was a session prior to mine. A guess what I saw? Nothing.
As I walked in the room, it looked pretty bare. That’s fine with me. I can bring the party and the energy, but where was the laptop? How was I going to show my slides? I made a personal commitment to not travel with a computer and have not done so for at least the past five years. That’s one way I integrate wellness and self-care into my career. I prepare in advance and enjoy travel. Anything that cannot be addressed from my smart phone can wait until I return home.
Needless to say, in this case, I was unprepared. I applied the standards for national conferences to this much smaller conference. I did not ask about the basics when I was invited (Note to self: update my speaking agreement). The response of a professor in a similar situation about ten years ago always stuck with me. He was speaking to about 100 of us and the facility’s laptop was not working or there was an error of the logistical team, not his fault.
What made it painful to experience was that he was inconsiderate, rude, and made sure he blamed them on the mic for all to hear. He ranted a bit too long. He was unprepared. A leader is agile in most if not all situations.
So what was I going to do about there being no laptop? We have all been in a situation that we were not prepared for. We have all wanted to put our best foot forward and fallen short in the moment. Time to get creative, agile, and most of all, stay gracious. It’s not easy. Stress can certainly override good judgement.
Be prepared to deliver your message without slides or technological support. If you’re not ready for that, you’re not ready to speak to the group or deliver the message you have been tasked to share, whether its a large group, staff meeting, pitch meeting, or otherwise. Or, it’s a sign that you’re overworked and have not had time to adequately prepare. Pay attention to that little sign of being out of balance and make adjustments.
Know your message, know your heart. If you have good reason to be up there, it can and will come naturally to you. Gain composure, remember your main points, commit to three points in your head on the spot, and go. Whatever you do, smile the whole time. I learned that as a dancer and cheerleader. You can mess up royally, but smile and people (most times) won’t notice or at least won’t remember. If you run off the stage crying, they remember that, right? Just know, they didn’t see the original vision. Come up with a new one, and fast. Give that talk or presentation on the fly without tech.