This Isn’t Working
On a hot, spring day in May when I was teaching first grade, an acute classic migraine hit me smack between the eyes. I’d lived with the symptoms and studied the condition since I got the first one in grade school, I knew the causes and the effects of this cousin to epilepsy.
This nerve storm would be an award winner. The “aura” — the quiet before the migraine storm — came on with an intensity that signaled that the pain would be following on fast and furious. It also meant that I might lose the feeling my hands or start “wixing my merds,” which wouldn’t be good in this class of 36 six-year-olds who had my number.
So while the kids were doing their math, I made a sign, set it on my desk, facing the class. It said I had gone on vacation.
Then I sat at my desk writing a letter to a friend about how the situation sucked.
A first-grader much like Carol Roth (@caroljsroth) came up to my desk to ask a question. I acted invisible and kept writing, as if we were on two different points in the time-space continuum.
She picked up the sign and read it to the class, “Miss Monterastelli has gone on vacation to Hawaii.” She put the sign back on the desk with some authority.
A voice from a Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan sort of young man said, “Hey, that means we don’t have to do our work!”
Then a voice from a Amber Naslund (@AmberCadabra sort of young lady said, “Yeah but if we did that, when she gets back, she’d give us THAT look.”
So they went on with their work and I waited for my migraine medication to take effect so that I could get back to my class and back to our work.
When a Tire Goes Flat in Front of the Audience, Stop Driving
I was at presentation a while ago. The speaker was someone I’d looked forward to hearing. She not only knows her subject matter, but comes high recommended as someone who can keep an audience engaged.
As the presentation got rolling, it became apparent that she had built her presentation for a different audience. The slides were over-packed with information that didn’t apply to the people in the room. It also seemed that she had realized that too, because as she spoke her confidence waned.
She didn’t have the option of putting up a sign and building a new presentation, but she might have untangled the situation by stepping back and starting over just the same.
If only she’d stopped, stepped back, and said, “You know this is not working, let me try something else. I’m going to close my computer and start over with a few questions from you.”
The audience would have thought her a hero for saving them an hour of time wasted. The humanity and courage of setting aside her plan for them would have said volumes about her respect. What had gone haywire could have been a super win.
Instead, despite her own discomfort, the speaker chose to plow through to the end with the presentation that didn’t work.
When a tire goes flat, it’s a bad idea to keep driving. The same principle works here. If you know that what you’re doing isn’t working, stop, step back, and start over in a new way.
It’s not the plan that counts it’s the quality delivery to the audience.
Whether we’re telling, helping, or selling, sometimes we can misjudge where our heads are or what the audience needs. We can often feel it by the lack of feedback in the room. It never hurts to ask, if the group wants or needs to go another direction.
They’ll make you a hero for making it about them.
And about those first graders …
After about a half hour, I felt much better and took down the sign sign. Luckily I had been to Hawaii, because I was greeted with a long list of questions about what I’d done and seen while I was on vacation there.
Do you have a story about plowing on when you should have stopped or starting over and being glad you did?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz on your business!!