My mentor, Jim DeMoux, taught me that in order to be a successful speaker and trainer I would have to be good at many things—teaching, facilitating, managing time, reading audiences, etc. Then, he added, “Mark, at the end of the day, you and I are basically performers, and people expect to be entertained while they learn.” Looking back over decades in the business, I can tell you that Jim was right—people want—no, crave—to be entertained!
I also discovered early on in my career that “Murphy’s Law” (If anything can go wrong, it will.) would manifest regularly and make my goal of entertaining audiences a real challenge. But I always knew that “The show must go on.” in spite of any difficulties I faced.
Years ago, I traveled to Mexico City to teach a course on proposal writing. I arrived at the venue early to set up the room and make sure everything (materials, technology, etc.) was in order. I immediately noticed that participant materials hadn’t been shipped from the U.S. by the vendor I contracted with to teach the course.
Anxiety built as I sat there wondering what I would do. “The show must go on.” played in my mind. Then, I remembered that I had prepared a thumb drive months before with PDFs of all the materials—just in case.
I found a place that would print out the materials and deliver them later that morning. Then, I modified the delivery of my workshop for the first two hours to allow time for the materials to arrive. The workshop ended up being a success!
A couple of days ago, I traveled to Park City, Utah, where I had been invited to deliver my presentation, “The Majesty of Our Universe.” I arrived early to setup. I—we—couldn’t get my laptop to work with their technology. The visuals I had prepared were a huge part of my presentation. In the back of my mind, I heard the words, “The show must go on.” As I sat wondering how I would proceed, I watched the participants enjoying their lunches. Aha! I would simply walk my laptop around to the six tables and show them my slides as I talked. Less than optimal? Yes. Better than no visuals at all? No question!
I started my presentation by asking these seniors, “Have you ever had something in your life not turn out the way you had planned?” They all laughed. I added, “How many have experienced that phenomenon many times?” Even more laughter was forthcoming. I then asked, “And what do we do when that happens?” Everyone spoke at once, “We find a way forward!” “We make lemonade out of lemons!” I then explained my—our—situation and told them how I would proceed. As I looked about, I saw knowing smiles and nods of approval.
As it turned out, the participants enjoyed the personal attention I gave to each table. Lots of questions were forthcoming, and we all had a great time!
As I packed up my things after the presentation, I recalled some wise words I had heard on a radio program years before, “If you are committed, there is always a way.” I have come to believe those words.