Not long ago I got two great chances to fly by the seat of my pants. And, I HATE flying by the seat of my pants. I’d rather go to the dentist or chew aluminum foil! Whether I’m scheduled to speak to audiences for fee or for free, I prepare very carefully. I want people to leave my speeches ready to take action and change their lives. Being prepared grounds me to be able to handle the stress of speaking and whatever else comes my way.

Last Thursday I was ready to speak to a study group of the American Society of Interior Designers. I was more nervous than usual because two men from a local speaker’s bureau were going to be in attendance to see if I’m the kind of speaker their company wants to represent. I thought I had my act completely together. I was going to do a slide presentation which required that I use my laptop computer. As I got ready to set up I suddenly realized that I’d left my computer on the kitchen counter, at least 40 minutes away. My first thought was, “Well, I guess you’ve got to make every mistake possible as a speaker so you can learn from them!” I’ve come a long way from the days when I would have bludgeoned myself with, “How could you be so stupid!”

As I usually do when faced with a sudden challenge like that, I went into problem-solving mode. I’d given that speech many times without using slides. I could certainly do that again. And, that’s what I did. I spent some time calming myself down, mentally reviewing the material, and I gave a good speech. Under the circumstances I was pleased to have been able to do that. Had I not been well organized in every other way, it would have been much harder to recover and give my audience a good experience.

The next day I made sure I took my laptop to do a speech for employees in the Mortgage Division of Village Bank. Again, I was very organized, and I was pleased that I’d remembered the laptop. I thought to myself, “You’re really ready this time!” Wrong!!!!

With the help of some Village Bank employees I began to set up my computer to project my slides through their system. That’s when it hit me that though I had the computer, I had left my power cord at home. I had to laugh at myself. Another lesson! You need both the computer and the power cord to run a slide presentation.

Fortunately, the Village Bank people were so nice, helpful and understanding. One man had a flash drive I was able to load my speech onto and I was able to project it through their system. There’s more than one way to skin a cat! Or rather, there’s more than one way to project a slide program!

Having made those two amazing mistakes back to back gave me the impetus to get more systematic about loading my AV bag. Most items in my AV bag never leave it between speeches. My computer and power cord do. My current solution to make sure I’m never without my computer and power cord again is to have two red cords with tags attached to them that read “Computer” and “Power Cord” tied to my bag handles when those items are not in the bag. They are my cues to check to make sure the computer and power cord are in the bag. When I put the computer in the bag, I take the tag off and put it in the bag. When I pull the computer out of the bag I tie the tag to the handle. I’ll do the same thing with the power cord tag. And, for good measure, I’m putting a flash drive with my speeches on it in the bag.

Making mistakes can lead to good organizing solutions! I’ll bet I’m not likely to forget my computer or power cord again, or at least not any time soon!

What mistakes have you made that caused you to reorganize and improve a process?

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