Failure is not an Option: Presenting Under Pressure (Part 1 of 5)

Failure is not an Option: Presenting Under Pressure (Part 1 of 5)

Failure is not an Option: Presenting Under Pressure (Part 1 of 5) 1024 409 EDC Communications

In his starring role as the Flight Director for the Apollo 13 manned mission to the moon, actor Ed Harris is confronted with a dire situation.  The spacecraft, with three astronauts onboard, is halfway to the moon and has malfunctioned causing a lack of oxygen to the cabin. The crew has used more fuel than anticipated and they’re uncertain if they can make it back to earth alive.  Harris tasks his young crew of mission control flight engineers with the safe return of the crippled spacecraft and its three astronauts.  Time is very tight and the pressure to succeed is very intense.  Upon hearing the status of the malfunctioning craft, Ed Harris stands and says,

“We’ve never lost an American in space, we’re sure as hell not gonna lose one on my watch! Failure is not an option.”

Thankfully, the lives of your friends and colleagues do not, in most cases, rest on the success or failure of your next presentation. Whew! But there are times when there’s intense pressure to “nail it”. Unlike the movie, we don’t have a team of mission control specialists standing by to fix everything that might go wrong.  But we do have a short list of “must-haves” that will help you succeed under pressure.  Following is the first of 5 Mission Critical Rules for your upcoming presentation.

Mission Rule #1:  Prepare Specifically and Thoroughly for Each and Every Presentation

Have a special document that you use to prepare for all presentations.  Gene Kranz (the real Flight Director) called this special key document “the mission rules”.  “Mission rules provide preplanned decisions to manage the many risks during a mission”.   In other words, anticipate everything you can beforehand.  Here’s a sample of the checklist you might consider having in your Mission Rules document.  Apply your own (if applicable):

Presentation Preparation – Sample Questions:

  • Date & Time needed onsite? Time allotted for presentation?
  • Where are you presenting? Location of city, hotel, conference room number?
  • Obstructions: Columns in the room? Unmovable furnishings?
  • Lighting needs? Board room overhead lighting, conference room with windows?
  • Sound needs? Microphone? Lavalier? “Air wall”? Adjacent ambient noise?
  • Room Temperature, OK? Thermostat Accessible?
  • Table set up? Dinner meeting wait staff informed when to serve?
  • Competitive companies presenting in the same hotel venue? Security needs?
  • Post-meeting materials pick up?
  • Grouping of questions? How will you answer unwanted questions?
  • Team presenting? Segue prepared?  Pick-up and hand-off people.
  • LCD Projector, AV needs?
  • Guest seating? (if applicable)

What else should go on YOUR list?  Address these items yourself or delegate what you can.  However, remember, the “Mission Rules” for presenting under pressure will help you use “the best judgment to address mission risks” before they occur.  Next time we’ll cover how to prepare your presentation content.

Contact us at for a complete Preparation Checklist and help with your “mission critical” presentation.