Our worst nightmare comes true.

Blackout Uh-oh

What’s worse than presenting in the nude?

Have you ever had that dream where you’re doing a major presentation and you suddenly realize you’re doing it in the nude? That’s bad but our worst presenters’ nightmare is the dreaded power failure. What can you do then? Can you still make a great impression?

Well, the other day Joanne and I got to find out the hard way.

Huge pressure

Of course we were presenting to a brand new client group. Not just any client group, this was over 100 scientists at their annual conference. To make matters worse we’d been told that for the last four years the soft skills and team building segments had not gone over well with this scientific audience.

Introverts into extroverts

We had also been told that this group was composed mainly of introverts. The organizers wanted them to be able to network beyond their regular lab partners so they could build relationships at the conference and throughout their careers. So Joanne and I spent extra time customizing to make sure our Savvy Networking presentation included real life scenarios they could relate to.

The best laid plans of mice and Joanne and Terry

Then disaster struck. The main transformer to the hotel blew up and no power was available for the day of our presentation. We had a quick meeting with the event organizer who was so calm and unruffled which helped us to stay cool and composed. (Except Joanne was still concerned about how she was going to do her hair and makeup in the dark. Terry not so much.)

Plan B

We moved on to emergency plan B. Thankfully we would not be presenting in the total dark as there was a bank of windows along one side of the room. However, no computer or PowerPoint so we made a mental note to paraphrase our PowerPoint slides. No microphones gave us a little bit of concern because of the size of the room and the audience. So we had to step up our voice projection and stage presence.

An audience of potential unhappy campers

On top of all this, the audience had just stepped off a 5 hour bus trip. To make matters worse, instead of a one-hour break before our workshop, the scientists were forced to stand in line for the hour at the hotel’s front desk to be manually registered for their rooms. Ouch!

Forced comfort zone expansion

From the front desk these scientists were immediately funneled into our Savvy Networking presentation where they were strategically (read – forced to be) seated with people that they didn’t know. We gently and systematically pushed them out of their comfort zones to meet and start interacting with each other.

Power outage empowers

The scientists were terrific. We were truly gratified to see them embrace the conversation and networking exercises. As we dined with them after the presentation it was fantastic to hear the level of conversation between new acquaintances at the dinner tables. The conference was off to a great start. When we read the feedback forms more than 75% of the researchers had given us an excellent rating of four or five out of five.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

It was a good experience for us and for them. The scientists were used to challenging conventional thinking in their research and now they were able to use some of those scientific skills to stretch and explore conversation topics with others. The power outage also forced Joanne and me to stretch out of our comfort zone as presenters. Just like networking and conversation, the technology is nice but what is truly important is your warmth and ability to engage with others.

Posted by Terry Pithers –  business etiquette expert and networking trainer

About the author 

Terry Pithers

Canadian speaker, humorist and business etiquette expert. If you are interested in booking me for a presentation, keynote or workshop, contact me. Based in Calgary / Edmonton, Alberta in western Canada.

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