Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Good Speaker Always Has A Backup Plan

What you’re about to read is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent and the not-so-bright.

A few years ago a major American medical association was conducting a search for a new public relations firm. The four finalists we given specific back-to-back time slots during the day to present their creative concepts and media plans. There were only 15-20 minutes between each presentation with no exceptions.

The fourth agency to present that day was Wingtip Partners and their team waited for their turn in the lobby with all their layouts, handouts and visual aids. Minutes before they were called into the boardroom, Wingtip’s creative director went to the restroom and left his large black portfolio case with all their visual aids on a chair in the lobby.

While he was in the bathroom the third agency, Rutledge & White, completed their presentation and filed into the lobby. During the brief commotion of one agency leaving and the other one entering the boardroom, Wingtip’s black portfolio case was accidentally picked up and carried away by a member of Rutledge & White. (Oops.)

Moments later Wingtip’s creative director joined his team in the conference room to set up.

Problem. No portfolio.

They panicked.

Wingtip Partners would have nothing to present if they didn’t have the layouts and storyboards inside that portfolio. With only minutes to spare before their presentation was to begin, they made frantic phone calls back to their office to see if they had accidentally left the portfolio there, they searched inside their cars and they tore up the lobby like DEA agents looking for crack. They were up the proverbial creek.

Finally, they tracked down the cell phone number of the Rutledge & White VP and discovered that she had inadvertently taken the portfolio because it was sitting by itself on a chair in the lobby. She thought it belonged to her team.

[I know what you're thinking, "She took it on purpose." However, I happen to know this person very well and it is not in her genetic makeup to pull a stunt like that. She would want to win the business fair-and-square.]

The case was returned to the boardroom and Wingtip started their presentation about five minutes late. The client later told me that every presenter appeared flustered.

Long story short, Wingtip did not win the account. Rutledge did. And no one will ever know if Wingtip might have prevailed if they had a back up plan (or had their creative director decided to go to the bathroom back at home like mom always told you).

Time to Hit Your Stride…

Your Turn #1: Do you have a backup plan when you’re at a new business pitch? What if a key player doesn’t show up? What if you accidentally arrive late?

Your Turn #2: How good would your presentation be without your visuals? How could you make your presentation shine without your visuals?

Happy speaking,

Steve Hughes
Speaker – Trainer – Presentation Whisperer

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