PowerPoint and Presenting Stuff

Breaking Murphy’s Law: Conversation with Lee Potts

Lee Potts has been blogging about visual communications and presentation-related issues since 2002. His current project, Breaking Murphy’s Law (tagline: because when you’re presenting, someone’s always watching), launched in June. He serves on the steering committee of InfoComm’s Presentation’s Council and he was recently elected to the Health and Science Communications Association (HeSCA) Board of Directors.

Geetesh: Tell us more about yourself, and how you created the Breaking Murphy’s Law blog.

Lee: Most of my career has involved, in one way or another, helping people to do presentations. As a graphic designer, a AV tech or a tactical consultant I’ve worked on everything from basic one-on-one pitches to trade shows to large sales training meetings. Right now, I work for a major pharmaceutical company helping research teams to present their findings at FDA Advisory Committee meetings. These meetings represent one of the final, critical milestones in the drug approval process and they are very exciting to be part of because the stakes are so high.

When I started thinking about what would eventually become Breaking Murphy’s Law, I knew that although I really wanted to get back into blogging, I didn’t want to have another blog that was basically just a collection of annotated links to other websites.

It occurred to me that some of the most interesting moments in my career happened when things were going very wrong. Along the same lines, many of my best work memories involve hanging out during down time with the other meeting and staging professionals listening to their stories about when things went very wrong for them. I think that everyone would agree that there’s something fascinating about the subject. These stories can provide a certain level of vicarious knowledge. They are an entertaining way to gain some experience without actually screwing up yourself. A trick, tip or technique learned while listening to these stories might be crucial to saving a meeting or even a career.

I created Breaking Murphy’s Law hoping it would eventually grow into an ongoing conversation, a large-scale sharing of stories about what can go wrong when you’re a presenter or when you’re supporting someone else’s presentation. A place where everyone, whether you’re an experienced professional or newbie, can learn how to break Murphy’s Law before Murphy’s Law breaks you.

Geetesh: What are the favorite topics you have covered in the blog? Give us a few thoughts and links.

Lee: Well, in Jedi Knights With Frickin’ Laser Pointers we covered presenters with poor pointer control. The world’s worst wet T-shirt contest deals with a last minute beverage and business presentation collision. Sticky Situation tells about the time we had problems with the AV tech’s most basic of tools — gaffer tape. The hotel had just put down new carpets that had been heavily treated with stain repellent. Who knew it would also repel tape adhesive. None of the cables we taped down stayed down. Needless to say, some of the meeting attendees took an unplanned trip without ever leaving the venue.

I try to stay away from stories that are mainly about bad presentation and PowerPoint skills. There are so many other really good blogs already covering that. However, I am interested in stories from all the different areas of expertise that go into making a presentation possible, including administrative support, meeting planners, AV techs, venue staff and, of course, the presenters themselves. And in nod to blogging tradition, I try to publish a weekly list of things I stumbled across online that my readers might be interested in that they might have missed. The most recent example is here.

I’d like to take this opportunity to ask your readers to submit any stories or anecdotes they have about presentation problems they experienced or witnessed. Stories about presentation disasters narrowly averted are also encouraged. You can take full credit for the story or remain safely anonymous, whichever you prefer. You can use the form on this page to submit your story. Please take a few minutes and add to the collective wisdom and experience of the presentation professional community.

Categories: delivery, education, interviews, powerpoint

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