Murphy’s Law

Murphy’s Law states that, “if anything can go wrong, it will.” The aphorism, whatever its derivation, should be addressed by all presenters as part of their preparation. Preparation is the best way, not to necessarily prevent problems, because, as the aphorism states, it will still go wrong, but instead, preparation is the best way to recover and cope with whatever goes wrong. Murphy’s Law is also held to more likely to happen as the importance of the presentation rises.

Murphy's lawAt the farthest extreme of Murphy’s Law is suggests that there is no such thing as the perfect presentation. This is true. No presentation is delivered without problems. That does not devalue the presentation as its value is not measured against a plan but in the reception by the audience. This should be the encouragement to all presenters as they plan the presentation and prepare for any eventualities that may derail them. A problem should not ruin a presentation; it may even be perceived as showing added value by the recovery.

Considering the multitude of problems that might occur one should make reasonable preparation for the most likely and for the most significant. Issues of format including page size, incompatible software and programmes, fonts, videos and even colours should be excluded in the pre-presentation workup. Device incompatibility and connectivity similarly should be excluded early on the day of the event by personally running the whole piece through in the auditorium during a break before the appointed session. Technology itself from polling devices even to the battery in the remote control should all be checked. Improve and maximise the environment to manage lighting and back projection, appropriate microphones and stage movement as well as extraneous debris that previous speakers or events may have left. Ensure everything is in place before the stage is taken.

Once on stage however there are still opportunities for Murphy to appear. Projector issues should be overcome by simply closing the programme and continuing. Or asking for a delayed slot. Microphone and sound issues are the role of AV/IT but it is possible to speak slowly and clearly and project to a large room. Previous speakers over running cannot be prevented but it is essential to have clarity from the organisers when following regarding your timing. Do not be distracted by audience movement, reaction or even paucity of numbers. Most of these situations are not about you but to external factors. Do not be put off.

Many problems can arise. This is Murphy’s Law. Keep calm and carry on. Practice and preparation are The Good Presenter’s defence against the majority of problems and the audience reaction and reception is only based on what is delivered, not what might have been.

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