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The Disaster Speech and How I Handled It

The Disaster Speech and How I Handled It

    I’ve been told that whatever can go wrong when doing a speech will go wrong at some point in your career. Of course, I like to think I’m different, or perhaps that I’ll be the lucky one and escape some of those challenges. If I just prepare well enough, everything will be OK.

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    Well, this week I had an experience that humbled me. It was as if the Universe was letting me get a real taste of what can go wrong on the day of a speech. First, I showed up at the wrong location. I thought I knew where I was going. I went to the Commonwealth Club instead of the Colony Club! Who knew that there were two clubs in Richmond, Virginia whose names begin with a C! Fortunately the woman who had arranged for me to speak was available by cell phone. And, lucky for me, the Colony Club was only three blocks up on the same street! Whew! I was able to correct that mistake pretty quickly!

    Once I got to the Colony Club and parked, I was unsure if I was in the right parking area. If I was wrong, my car would be towed. I decided to be safe rather than sorry. When I went to back up, there was a van parked behind me, preventing me from moving my car. The owner of the car was nowhere to be seen! Ahhhhh!!!! I decided to take my chances and left my car where it was.

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    When I got into the building I was dismayed to find I would be speaking in a ballroom in the basement. It is very difficult to make basements feel comfortable because they are under ground, usually have insufficient natural light and have the lowest energy in a building. The room proved to be as dismal as I could have imagined. Wall paper and carpeting, no matter how luxurious, just cannot make up for a lack of windows! And, the ceiling may have been a bit lower than normal because it felt like it was pressing down on me. Add to that several enormous columns that blocked my view of some of the participants. And, of course those participants couldn’t see me either! Not an ideal environment for making a speech.

    “Oh, well,” I thought, “At least the people are very nice,” and I began setting up for my speech. First I discovered that the extension cord that had been provided for me would not accommodate my three prong plug. I had accidentally left my extension cord home with supplies I’d organized for a workshop I’m doing this weekend. That problem was quickly solved when I realized that I actually had a cord in my bag that would work. Great!

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    Then I couldn’t get my computer to talk to my projector. I’d set up my equipment many times with no trouble, but this particular day I had difficulty figuring out how to connect all the parts. It may have been that the light in the space was just dim enough to shut down the part of my brain that I need for technology challenges, especially since I am no technology whiz! Finally the woman in charge suggested that I shut down my computer and start over. Good idea! When I began to shut it down it magically began projecting my slides! Yeah! However, I still couldn’t get the remote to connect. The nice woman offered to advance my slides for me. I agreed to that and then remembered that I did have another remote that came with the projector. It worked! I was good to go!

    When it came time to speak I stood up and took the microphone. To my surprise and dismay its cord was too short to reach all the way to where I needed to stand close to my computer. Wonderful! No problem, I’d just speak from the spot where the cord ended. Unfortunately the remote only worked when it was very close to the computer. So, there I was speaking into the microphone and then stretching my body to make the remote advance my slides. Because I was unfamiliar with that remote it took me some time to understand that it was slow to advance the slides. Over and over again I thought it hadn’t gotten the signal to advance and pushed the button again. Then it advanced two slides. Back and forth I went with the slides. What a fiasco!

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    I’m sure it looked like a comedy routine to the participants! What was I doing while all these challenges were occurring? I was thinking, “They told me that whatever can go wrong when speaking will go wrong. I guess this is what they meant!” And, I kept solving the problems right in front of me and kept on speaking. I kept acting professionally, making light of the challenges and moving forward despite the string of obstacles even though I just wanted to scream or pack my bags and call it a day. Fortunately I know my material well enough that I was able to do a good job delivering the content when the correct slide was on the screen. And, fortunately I was speaking to an audience of incredibly kind, patient and understanding people.

    I was so glad when I finished that speech. I felt like I’d run a marathon! And, I’d pulled it off without losing my cool or throwing in the towel. It was like finishing a final exam. I had no hopes for an A on that exam. A passing grade would do. Much to my surprise a number of people came up to ask me questions and bought my book. I thought to myself, “I must have gotten my information across despite the comedy routine and delays!” And, the evaluation forms were all positive. Not one person commented on the comedy of errors they’d witnessed. What a miracle! What a learning experience for me!

    So, the next time you run into obstacles on your path, I recommend that you remember that you just have to solve the next problem in front of you. Had I begun judging myself for my mistakes or allowed myself to ruminate about what the participants must be thinking of me, I could not have kept moving forward. Those thoughts would have shut down my creative energy and stopped me in my tracks. Instead, I kept problem solving. And, I kept thinking, “I can do this. I just have to finish this speech. What I’m doing is important and must be done.”

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    Last Updated on July 8, 2020

    What Everyone Is Wrong About Achieving Inbox Zero

    What Everyone Is Wrong About Achieving Inbox Zero

    Ah, Inbox Zero. An achievement that so many of us long for. It’s elusive. It’s a productivity benchmark. It’s an ongoing battle.

    It’s also unnecessary.

    Don’t get me wrong, the way Inbox Zero was initially termed is incredibly valuable. Merlin Mann coined the phrase years ago and what he has defined it as goes well beyond the term itself.[1]

    Yet people have created their own definition of Inbox Zero. They’re not using it with the intent that Mann suggested. Instead, it’s become about having nothing left in immediate view. It’s become about getting your email inbox to zero messages or having an empty inbox on your desk that was once filled with papers. It’s become about removing visual clutter.

    But it’s not about that. Not at all.

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    Here’s what inbox zero actually is, as defined by Mann:

    “It’s about how to reclaim your email, your atten­tion, and your life. That “zero?” It’s not how many mes­sages are in your inbox–it’s how much of your own brain is in that inbox. Especially when you don’t want it to be. That’s it.” – Merlin Mann

    The Fake Inbox Zero

    The sense of fulfillment one gets from clearing out everything in your inbox is temporary at best, disappointing at worst. Often we find that we’re shooting for Inbox Zero just so that we can say that we’ve got “everything done that needed to be done”. That’s simply not the case.

    Certainly, by removing all of your things that sit in your inbox means that they are either taken care of or are well on their way to being taken care of. The old saying “out of sight, out of mind” is often applied to clearing out your inbox. But unless you’ve actually done something with the stuff, it’s either not worth having in your inbox in the first place or is still sitting in your “mental inbox”.

    You have to do something with the stuff, and for many people, that is a hard thing to do. That’s why Inbox Zero – as defined by Mann – is not achieved as often as many people would like to believe. It’s this “watered down” concept of Inbox Zero that is completed instead. You’ve got no email in your inbox and you’ve got no paper on your desk’s inbox. So that must mean you’re at Inbox Zero.

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    Until the next email arrives or the next document comes your way. Then you work to get rid of those as quickly as possible so that you can get back to Inbox Zero: The Lesser again. If it’s something that can be dealt with quickly, then you get there. But if they require more time, then soon you’ve got more stuff in your inboxes. So you switch up tasks to get to the things that don’t require as much time or attention so that you can get closer to this stripped down variation of Inbox Zero.

    However, until you deal with the bigger items, you don’t quite get there. Some people feel as if they’ve let themselves (or others) down if they don’t get there. And that, quite frankly, is silly. That’s why this particular version of Inbox Zero doesn’t work.

    The Ultimate Way to Get to Inbox Zero

    So what’s the ultimate way to get to Inbox Zero?

    Have zero inboxes.

    The inbox is meant to be a stop along the way to your final destination. It’s the place where stuff sits until you’re ready to put it in the place where it sits until you’re ready to deal with it.

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    So why not skip the inbox altogether? Why not put it in the place where it sits until you’re ready to deal with it? Because that requires immediate action. It means you need to give the item some thought and attention.

    You need to step back and look at it rather than file it. That’s why we have a catch-all inbox, both for email and for analog items. It allows us to only look at these things when we’re ready to do so.

    The funny thing is that we can decide when we’re ready to without actually looking at the inbox beforehand. We can look at things on our own watch rather than when we are alerted to or feel the need to.

    There is no reason why you need an inbox at all to store things for longer than it sits there before you see it. None. It’s a choice. And the choice you should be making is how to deal with things when you first see them, rather than when to deal with things you haven’t looked at yet.

    Stop Faking It

    Seeing things in your inboxes is simply using your sight. Looking at things in your inbox when you first see them is using insight.

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    Stop checking email more than twice per day. Turn off your alerts. Put your desk’s inbox somewhere that it can be accessed by others and only accessed by you when you’re ready to deal with what’s in it. Don’t put it on your desk – that’s productivity poison.

    If you want to get to Inbox Zero — the real Inbox Zero — then get rid of those stops along the way. You’ll find that by doing that, you’ll be getting more of the stuff you really want done finished much faster, rather than see them moving along at the speed of not much more than zero.

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    Featured photo credit: Web Hosting via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Merlin Mann: Inbox Zero

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