March 23, 2010

Don't forget your pre-flight check



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We attended a wedding last weekend at a cute little outdoor wedding chapel. The setting was sweet, but the sound was weak.

Part of the reason it was hard to hear the ceremony was that there was a bubbling fountain on my side of the patio. I could hear most of what the minister was saying, but when the bride and groom began to share the vows they had written for each other -- to me, the most important part of the ceremony -- I could barely hear a thing.

The wedding coordinator was standing at the back, watching the proceedings, with a look on her face that indicated she couldn't hear anything, either. And yet it didn't occur to her to turn off the fountain. Or hook up a microphone, for that matter.

How many weddings has this chapel hosted? I'm guessing that they've hosted enough weddings that they should know the sound isn't very good.

But here's the problem, and I see it all the time with speakers: You get used to a particular venue or audience and become lulled by the familiarity of the situation. You no longer check the sound or the seating or the view of the stage or the thermostat or any of the things that you used to confirm beforehand.

When you do the same thing over and over enough times, it's easy to fall into a pattern of stagnation. You don't update your presentation, you don't look at the venue through fresh eyes. You don't notice the noisy fountain in the corner. Unfortunately, you are not seeing the presentation or the space the way your audience sees it.

Every time an airplane leaves the ground, it has undergone a pre-flight inspection to make sure it's in proper condition to fly. Every time. And it's never rushed. The pilot or ground crew take their time to make sure everything is in good working order. If it's not, the plane doesn't fly.

You may not have safety concerns about your presentation, but if your venue is not in the best condition, it's going to affect the audience -- and you could still crash and burn.

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