This post was written by Amy Fenollosa, Director of Learning at The Latimer Group
Last week, we narrowly escaped a technological catastrophe… We had a total flood in our office. Gallons of water rained down from the ceiling directly above the desk in our webinar presentation space.
We’d only been in our new office space for a month when we heard the sound of running water. Upon investigation, we discovered water gushing through the ceiling, directly onto the computer, monitor and phone in our webinar room. A leak in the office above ours had caused a sudden flood of water to burst through the ceiling and into our office.
The computer was flooded, the desk was drenched, and the seat soaked. The water showered down in the exact spot I had been sitting to deliver a Webex just hours before. After we salvaged the brand new computer equipment, we reflected on the situation. “What would you have done,” my colleagues asked, “if you were teaching a Webex during the flood?” I burst out laughing—“Imagine if it were a video class? I almost wish it had been!”
In our workshops, we teach people how to keep their cool and be prepared for unexpected interruptions when they present; PowerPoint failures, ringing cellphones, and late arrivals can serve as major distractions to a presenter. We teach people how to command executive presence and demonstrate confidence in all sorts of situations. Regardless of the distraction, it pays to be prepared and expect the unexpected. What would we have done if the flood had happened while we were live with clients? If it were an audio call, it wouldn’t have been obvious to the listeners, but I would have had to acknowledge the sudden downpour. We could take a break and resume the workshop from a colleague’s desk down the hall.
We can’t ever predict every eventuality, but we can think on our feet and try to maintain our cool. Remember that the audience will take your lead on the situation. If you’re able to continue your presentation without skipping a beat, they will likely dismiss the distraction and stay with you. If you need to address the situation, do so quickly and return to your agenda. If you find yourself suddenly soaked in the middle of live call, after the initial shock, be honest. We’re all human and life is unpredictable— your candor will win you credibility with your audience.