PREPARE for Disaster: Present with Pizzazz

A person presenting to a large audience in an auditorium
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In Medieval times, people believed that when mischievous sprites heard you wish for something, they would make the opposite happen. Many show biz professionals still believe in them. I can attest to their existence. I have seen them in action. One example comes from my early speaking career. As I began a discussion of the distractions cell phones cause during training programs, my computer began to auto-download a software update. Another time, an event I was to keynote had moved locations at the last minute, but no one told me. I spent a frantic hour driving from hotel to hotel, trying to find the correct location. And more recently, a comedy routine I was performing fell flat. No one laughed. It was only later that I realized the room I was performing in had such a bad echo that no one could understand what I was saying.

All three examples are true. All put me on the spot. All inconvenienced the audience. All were avoidable. In this article, I hope to help you outsmart the sprites by examining the extensive preparations show biz professionals make with some presentation tips. The acronym for those presentation tips is P.R.E.P.A.R.E.

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The Plan is the most critical part of any performance but the least noticed by the audience. To gain insight into the lengths Hollywood goes when planning a movie, listen to the commentary track on any DVD. You will discover that the moviemakers spent years planning, including concept development, scripting, storyboarding, scenic selection, character development, music creation, and actor casting. All these details added to the success of the film. Any one of them handled poorly could have ruined it. The first step in foiling the sprites is to capture it all before the event.

In entertainment, you can spot the true professionals. They Rehearse so much that they look unrehearsed. They “flow.” Flow occurs when you know something so completely that concentration is no longer required (much like our daily commutes: we’ve rehearsed that drive for months).

Constant, repetitious, mind-numbing rehearsal beyond endurance is the price performers pay to achieve flow. They examine the script line by line to plot the logistics of the performance. They determine where the props should be placed, how each item and person will get from point “A” to point “B,” and correct disconnects in the script. These run-throughs, although tedious and time-consuming, eliminate many of the flaws that attract sprites. As a result, the performer becomes one with the presentation.

With practice and repetition behind you and flow in front of you, the sprites must seek another opening. They look for the unexpected. Accordingly, you should take time to Explore all the potential unplanned challenges. Some people accuse me of being an “Eeyore” on this subject because I over-think potential calamities.

In that Eeyore role, I ask myself a number of questions:

  • What technology issues could pop up?
  • What questions might the audience ask?
  • What would a heckler say?
  • Are there any electrical wires to trip over?
  • What health problems could someone in the audience have during the presentation?


Explore these potential dangers, not as a pessimist, but because the more emergencies you envision, the less likely the sprites are to surprise you.

Once you have identified a potential challenge, you should Protect yourself from it by devising a solution. You should then protect yourself again by devising a solution for the solution. You should ask yourself, “What’s the backup plan?” Then, ask yourself, “What’s the backup plan for the backup plan?” Finally, ask yourself, “What’s the backup plan for the backup backup plan for the backup plan?”

For example, consider technology issues and ask yourself, “What if the laptop crashes?” Then, decide to load the PowerPoint onto your iPad. Next, ask yourself, “What if the iPad dies?” Then, resolve to load a copy of your PowerPoint on your website or share drive. But what if there is no Internet? Carry a flash drive and a CD-ROM with you. Then, finally, learn to present without your slides just in case.

Here’s an example from my own experience. In My Training With A Beat presentation, I demonstrate the various uses of music in learning environments. Without music, there can be no presentation. I have protected my clients (and myself) by integrating the music into the PowerPoint presentation. I then travel with the music on an iPhone and a CD-ROM, and I carry the necessary cables to connect the audio to a television.

Headshot of Lenn Millbower
Lenn Millbower
The Mouse Man™

Lenn Millbower, the Mouse Man™ and author of Care Like a Mouse, teaches Walt Disney-inspired service, leadership, innovation, training, and success strategies. Everything Disney touched seems magical. It isn’t. It’s a method. Lenn saw that method up close. He spent 25 years at Walt Disney World as an Epcot Operations trainer, Disney-MGM Studios stage manager, Animal Kingdom opening crew, Disney Institute, Disney University, and Walt Disney Entertainment management. Now, he shares methodologies that will help you make your own magic.

Connect with Lenn on LinkedInFacebook, TwitterYouTube, and at

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Everything’s Fine!? Prepare for Disaster. Present with Pizzazz.

Discover the presentational pitfalls of former Disney leader Lenn Millbower’s brother Les and how to avoid presentation disasters.

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