to Keep at Least One Step Ahead of Murphy's Law
we lose sight of Murphy's Law: "Whatever can happen, will."
And then, the unexpected and unwelcome happens. What prompted me to write
this article is that yesterday Murphy struck me and a large group that
I lead as president. Being prepared, however, saved the day. In this article,
I will explain how my bout with Murphy was overcome and will list other
means we can take to make sure that when Murphy strikes, he won't be able
to destroy us and/or our presentations.
Story of Murphy at Work
Yesterday morning, our computer users group was scheduled to hold its
monthly membership meeting at a local college. As president, I always
arrive at least an hour ahead of meeting start time to make sure that
everything - tables, sound system, etc. - are in place. When I arrived
at the building the door I usually enter was locked, so I went to another
entrance. Also locked. At the third entrance, I found a guard who informed
me that the power in the building had been attacked by the storm the night
before and that the meeting was canceled.
told her that was impossible.
We had about 100 people arriving in 30 to 45 minutes along with an out-of-town
speaker. Did they have space in another auditorium that I knew was in
the neighboring building? We called the Conference Center, and when I
spoke to the young man I discovered that nothing was scheduled for the
room, so asked him (with authority) to open it up while I put up notices
on all of the doors telling people where the meeting would be held.
the early member arrivals' and staff's help, we got a sound system
up, needed tables brought into the room, more directional signs and the
speaker set up with projector and lights. We started right on time, and
the meeting proceeded smoothly. How did we foil Murphy? First of all,
I had arrived with plenty of time to spare for a change of plans. Secondly,
in a flexible, authoritative, yet polite, manner, I wouldn't take "no"
for an answer - I told them, "The show must go on!" Thirdly,
I enlisted the help of everyone involved which made them feel important
and necessary. What could have turned into a cancelled meeting turned
into an excellent presentation. Note: I have already sent a letter to
the college praising the staff members for their quick and efficient help.
my suggestions for keeping ahead of Murphy:
arrive early. Even though in most situations, I have extra time
after setting up, as in the example above, having plenty of time to
spare has always served me well. I have been able to rearrange a poorly
set up room, test the sound system, and check to make sure that my computer
works with the projector. With the extra time, I also have the advantage
of talking with attendees and form relationships with them. The more
friends we have when we present, the better.
confirm, never assume. I know that I have mentioned this before.
When asked to present, be sure to confirm as many of the details as
possible, so Murphy can't easily cause surprises. I know speakers who
send a sheet to be filled out by the meeting planner. I prefer asking
the questions when we are setting up the program. How long should I
speak? Do you plan for me to include Q & A? What type of room and
seating will we have? What kind of sound system will be available -
can I have the microphone of my choice (a "handheld" or "lavaliere")?
Are there other speakers on the program? Are there people with whom
I should speak prior to the presentation? What do you want to accomplish
by having me speak? Then closer to the date (within the week) always
re-confirm the time, date and location. I once was hired for a presentation
by one person who gave me the incorrect time. I showed up in the afternoon
to discover they had expected me in the morning.
Murphy strikes, be ready to take over in a calm and courteous fashion.
Yes, you will need to speak with authority, yet be sure to remember
that whatever disaster is taking place wasn't caused on purpose or even
by the people with whom you are dealing. In my sample story, I could
have become angry that no one had contacted us, but that wouldn't have
helped the situation. By respecting the staff members who were there
(and on a Saturday, no less) I was able to enlist their help, even though
I did have to be assertive (not antagonistic or volatile, however).
all of the Murphy-like situations you may have to face and create solutions.
The more often we present and/or are called upon to play a part
in organizational meetings, the more prevalent will be our interactions
with Murphy. As you know by now, I am a strong proponent of preparation.
We never like to imagine the negative, but in this case, I suggest thinking
of all of the inconvenient and negative disasters that could happen.
Then, take a deep breath, and think of all of the possible solutions.
What would you do if someone in the audience became ill? What if you
became ill (I know a speaker who suffered a heart attack part way through
presenting a workshop)? What if all of the electricity failed and the
room was in total darkness (I know another speaker who had this happen).
What about a fire drill? What would you do if none of the equipment
worked? Could you still go on like the professional you are?
is that Murphy will never strike you and/or your presentation. But,
if he does, you will be ready to be the hero/heroine who wins the battle.
Do let me know the stories of your bouts with Murphy. I love to receive
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