Did you ever present in a barn? How about a bowling alley? How
about a community center where drum lessons are being given in
the next room?
Well I've been in all those situations and more and so far I've
survived the recurring nightmares and waking up in a cold sweat
just thinking about them. I've been diagnosed with PTVD -- Post-
Traumatic Venue Disorder.
If you are really gung ho about speaking, you're going to jump at
the chance to do just about any speaking engagement. You should
do this because it helps you to get really good, really fast. As
you get more experienced you'll learn to use your pre-program
research to recognize potentially disastrous venues before you
agree to speak. But sometimes, even with the best of preparation,
you get blindsided and have to present in a lousy venue.
What is a lousy venue?
A lousy venue could have one or more of the following problems:
=> Bad lighting
=> Bad sound system
=> Noise coming from outside
=> Numerous sight blocking fixtures
=> Poor heating and air conditioning
=> Large distance between the stage and the seats
This list is by no means comprehensive. One time because of a
scheduling mishap, I ended up on the dance floor of the sports
bar during lunch time. I would call this a lousy venue, wouldn't
So what do you do?
My first piece of mundane, but powerful information is to stay
calm and keep smiling. (Don't think I haven't violated this rule
before because I just did last month when a very large amount of
money was riding on my presentation and nothing was set up when I
got into the room.)
Then, determine what is in your control and what is out of your
control. If the air conditioning is making noise, you can turn it
off yourself or go find a janitor to do it for you. (in past
issues I have described ethical bribes where I'll grease a
janitor's palm with twenty bucks if he can get something resolved
for me in the next five minutes)
But if you've got 500 people waiting and the sound system just
blew up, what do you do?
Go directly to the meeting organizers and ask them what they want
you to do.
They are under as much or more pressure than you are so again,
try to keep smiling and portray a very helpful and accommodating
attitude. This is no time for prima donna antics.
Know your schedule in advance and the costs to reschedule
airfare, etc and be ready to tell the meeting planner what you
can and can't do. For instance, if you must make your flight to
be able to get to your next speaking engagement on time, then you
certainly can't agree to do the presentation after they fix the
sound system if it will make you miss your flight. It wasn't the
other group's fault the sound system blew up at this event so you
can't cause them problems by being late.
Be creative and be prepared
On big events where they have plenty of money, maybe they would
agree to charter you a flight or call in the corporate jet if you
can stay and get the job done. Maybe the meeting planner of your
troubled event knows the meeting planner of your next event and
they can help each other out behind the scenes with scheduling so
that you can get both jobs done.
On local and smaller events you could have your own portable
sound system in the trunk of your car as a backup.
For noise coming from the next room, have some pre-planned ad-
libs ready to acknowledge the distraction and continue if
possible.If the weather is nice, take people outside (which
has it's own set of problems) or go to another part of the
I certainly don't have solutions for all the problems you will
run into in your speaking career. What I want to get through to
you is that bad venues will happen. Sometimes you just can't do
anything about it and you must quit or reschedule the event and
sometimes you can be flexible and creative and find a way to get
the job done. . . . That's what being a pro speaker is all
P.S. What did I do about the sports bar presentation? I got
manager to turn on the DJ booth and show me how to work the disco
lighting. I got the lunch patrons involved and a good time was
had by all.
Learn all you need to know about speaking in a bad economy!