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Arrangements Fundamentals

Here are six axioms about arrangements that have been developed over years of hard lessons, learned from my own and others' painful experiences. They will serve you well if you apply them rigorously.

  1. Remember that the medium may be the message. Marshall McLuhan's famous observation—slightly adapted—definitely applies to presentations. A smoothly run presentation not only helps get the message across—it also enhances the confidence listeners have in the speaker and the material. Conversely, speakers who have serious operational problems are doing serious damage to their cause. Observers may assume that such carelessness applies to the work being presented as well.

    "If a presenter fumbles with the audio-visual equipment, it's unprofessional and a waste of time," says Captain James Woolway, commanding officer of the U.S. Naval Air Depot North Island. "It's an embarrassment and reflects poorly on the speaker, a poor way to start."[1]

  2. Be prepared. Give thorough attention to every detail necessary for putting on the presentation smoothly: the who, what, when, where, and why questions. Assurance comes from knowing all the incidentals have been taken care of and all the necessary equipment is in place and working. Few things can more quickly sap the confidence of an already apprehensive speaker than discovering at presentation time that some key incidental has been overlooked.

  3. Anticipate disasters and be ready when they hit. The classic example is the projector bulb that burns out—generally at the most critical part of your talk. If you follow this axiom, you will assume the bulb is going to burn out and will have a spare with you. And you will know how to put it in.

  4. Test everything. Despite extreme exhortations to inexperienced presenters, it usually takes one or two trials under fire before the critical importance of this axiom truly registers in the MANDATORY section of the brain. Show time is not the time for on-the-job training.

  5. Make arrangement your own responsibility. The presenter, not the support people, will be embarrassed and set back when a promised projector isn't there, or when your laptop won't work with the host's projector. Unless it comes from a trusted and experienced helper—a most valuable resource—be wary whenever you hear, "It'll work, trust me," or "Joe said it's all set."

  6. Never underestimate the power of Murphy's Law, which says that whatever can go wrong, will. Various corollaries and axioms have been put forth over the years, many of which, I suspect, were derived during business presentations. My set, all reality-based, is shown in Figure 8-2.


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