I was giving a debrief or a recent cruise ship speaking gig I had to the Western Caribbean over the New Year’s holiday to a relatively small group in Palo Alto, CA.
I talked about how I got on the ship – the interview process and so on.
I talked about my preparation.
Then I launched in to all the things that did NOT go as I expected.
The room was smaller and more remote – we stayed in crew’s quarters. Plenty adequate but not what I expected.
Instead of speaking once on each sea days I was tapped to speak twice on each of the sea days – 10 am and 2 pm.
Instead of following the outline of my talks that I submitted the ship unilaterally rearranged the order, cut one of the talks out, then AFTER I gave my second talk combining much of the information of the #2 an #3 talk, the ship reinserted the #3 talk without telling me till the morning of the talk – not what I expected.
Instead of the usual afternoon slot, I got a morning time slot while most of the all-night New Year’s revelers were still asleep or barely making their way to the breakfast buffet – not what I expected.
Instead of a venue of suitable size for 20-40 people, I found myself in the main auditorium of 800+ seats – not what I expected.
Instead of, instead of … so many things did not go the way I expected. Yet, I persisted, made do, made light of, even used to my advantage. Ex – my afternoon slot was right before bingo. A lot of people would arrive early for bingo meaning they would be there for my talk.
My point – the best speakers will anticipate what can go wrong – too many people, not many people at all, too small or too large a venue, bad timing, battery on the PC goes dead, light on projector goes out …
None of these things will faze the seasoned professional speaker.
In fact, the real professional shines brightest when things around him go ‘dark.’
The key to success is to plan to fail. Be prepared for what can go wrong so that when it does you can keep right on going.