Oh No! During a Meeting with High Level Execs, I Fell Out of my Chair. Now What?
During a meeting with some high level executives around a conference table, I fell out of my chair and landed flat on my back. (Yes, really!) Here's what happened.
I was invited to Stockholm by one of the world's largest beverage companies to deliver a full day workshop to a group of its international leaders. My travel itinerary was to take an early flight from Denver to Chicago, then to Frankfurt, and then to Stockholm. However, when I arrived in Chicago, there was a problem with the next plane and I had to be rerouted. My new itinerary became Chicago to Munich, then to Zurich, and then to Stockholm with a total additional travel time of 27 hours. Due to the changes, the only seats available were in economy, and for me, that meant no sleep. My original plan was to arrive in Stockholm at 7 AM local time which would have given me an entire day to regain my bearings before the workshop the following day. As it turned out, I arrived in Stockholm around 5 PM, and with no luggage. Apparently, it was stuck in Munich. I explained to the airline representative that I desperately needed my suitcase so that I could change out of the clothes I had been wearing for the past 35 hours. She assured me that my luggage would be delivered to my hotel later that evening. I found it difficult to sleep while waiting for my suitcase which finally arrived around 3 AM.
I set an alarm for 5:30 AM to allow enough time to clean up, put on a nice suit, and get to the client’s offices. When I arrived at the conference room, my adrenaline kicked in and I managed to do quite well throughout the day. (By the way, never, ever, tell your audience at the beginning of your presentation that you’re tired, not feeling well, etc. They expect and deserve your best no matter what the circumstances.)
The workshop concluded around 4:30 PM that afternoon. By then, I had been awake for more than 58 hours! When I attempted to head back to my hotel for some rest before my early return flight the next morning, the leader of the group suggested that we share taxis back to the hotel and then head out for dinner. But first there was to be a brief final presenter via conference call. I agreed to wait and took a seat at the conference table. The call came in and the presenter droned on about himself for at least 20 minutes.
The next thing I knew, I was lying on the floor! I had passed out from extreme exhaustion. Once I realized what had happened, I immediately placed myself back into my chair. Everyone witnessed my fall and showed some concern (and some chuckles) except for the boring virtual presenter who continued to talk about himself for another 10 minutes before the group leader told him we were out of time.
As we climbed into our taxis, someone told me to “buckle in.” There was a good laugh. When we arrived at our hotel, the group leader said, “Okay, freshen up and meet back in the lobby in 15 minutes so we can head out to dinner.” I explained that I would have to pass so I could get some much needed sleep before my early morning return flight.
As soon as I got to my room, I realized that I had to follow my own advice. I could not let my “Oh No’ moment be their last impression of me. So I removed my coat and tie and headed back to the lobby. We walked to a nearby restaurant and sat on stools at a large high-top table in the bar (actually, I chose to stand) as we waited some time for a dinner table. Drinks were ordered and we all chatted informally about our personal perspectives on various topics. After a while, I said goodbye with a hand shake, eye contact, and a friendly smile to each person..
Did I land on my feet (literally and metaphorically)? I believe so. And, I got a great story out of the whole ordeal!
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but rising each time we fall.” – Confucius
(See my new book, Presentations A to Z: The Handbook for Presenters, Second Edition available at Amazon.com)
One of the keys to being an outstanding presenter is knowing your content thoroughly. This requires rehearsing. When you can give your presentation without the aid of presentation software such as PowerPoint, it is only then that these tools can help to support your message. When standing to present, you’re the messenger, not PowerPoint. Try presenting without PowerPoint. It can be a liberating experience. You can create wonderful images by using expressive words, intonation, and facial expressions.
Never apologize at the beginning of your presentation for your lack of sleep, feeling poorly, etc. Pull it together and give them your best!
Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them, then TEST them to confirm that your message has been received as intended. Ask, what are your thoughts?, What is the most important thing you learned from this presentation? When you leave, what are you going to do differently?
Less is More
Many presenters take a good two-minute idea and dilute it with a sixty-minute vocabulary.
If you haven't discovered www.ted.com by now, I urge you to watch some of these presentations. At least 90% are excellent. Think about the characteristics that make these people good presenters and "borrow" the ones that work for you. I'm not suggesting that you become someone else when presenting (authenticity is paramount)...just pick up on some of their best practices.
Your Moment of Truth
People begin judging us the moment they see us. Then, the instant we start speaking, they form judgments about our competence, our reliability, our product, our company, even our entire industry. Perception becomes reality. Major decisions are made and careers advanced (or slowed) because of good (or bad) presentations.
“Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
_Mark M. Tamer
_As The Presenter's Coach, Mark helps individuals persuade others to think, feel, and do things differently. Mark has conducted more than 6,000 workshops, webinars, private coaching sessions, and speaking engagements worldwide.