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Welcome to

The Standup Trainer Newsletter

April 2007

Brought to you by Ellen Dowling, PhD ("The Standup Trainer") and the fine folks of Dowling & Associates, Inc.



This newsletter is guaranteed certifiably useful as well as amusing. (If you are not completely satisfied, there are unsubscribe instructions at the end. But we're betting you'll change your mind by the time you get there.)

Welcome to all new and continuing subscribers!

In this issue:

Dr. Standup Answers Your Most
Pressing Presentation Questions
(New feature!)

You are all invited to submit any presentation-skills-related question to Dr. Standup. (You are invited to submit any unrelated questions as well, but no promises on how useful the answers will be!)

You are also invited to respond to any question with answers of your own. (The Doctor is magnanimous and will publish alternative responses.)

And now, this month's question . . .

Dear Dr. Standup:

Last week I experienced both the joys and the sorrows of standup presenting: I conducted two different sessions, on two different topics, on the same day at a local conference for administrative professionals. The first session was (IMHO) a huge success; the second was a disaster. Here is my sad story:

My first presentation was called, “God Bless the Child Who's Got His/Her Own (Money): How to Start and Maintain a Successful Investment Club.” My session was scheduled for 55 minutes, in a small classroom, with 15 participants signed up in advance. I got there early, set up my laptop (to project an investment tool and go online to Yahoo Finance), and welcomed my participants as they came in.

Everything went well: My session monitor was competent; all my handouts were there; the computer worked just fine; the participants (all women) were interested and engaged. In fact, the session went so well that I went over a little at the end (responding to questions).

Then I remembered that my second session was scheduled to begin in LESS THAN FIVE MINUTES AND IN ANOTHER BUILDING! This is where things started to fall apart . . . .

I threw my laptop into my bag and raced to my next session, which I had designed to be an interactive, facilitated discussion called “We've Got to Stop Meeting This Way: 5 Techniques for Successful Meetings.” My plan was that the 55-minute session would actually BE a meeting. The sample agenda I developed, for example, was supposed to be the actual agenda for the session itself. And I also planned to get volunteers to take the “public minutes” (recorded on flip chart paper on the walls so everyone could see them). I presumed that I would be in another small classroom, with actual walls, and flip charts to write on, and a useful handout with templates to take notes on, and an intimate space in which to get full participation from an interested, engaged audience (just like I had in my first session).

All of my presumptions were wrong.

I raced to the site of my second presentation, only to find that, instead of a small, intimate classroom, “they” (the conference staff) had moved me into a gigantic auditorium! No walls anywhere near on which to tape flip chart paper, and an audience sitting mostly WAY in the back of the auditorium, so far away that I could hardly see them!

OK, no problem, I can adapt (I thought, huffing and puffing from my race from the other building). “Come on down,” I entreated and cajoled the participants. “You'll get much more out of this session if you're closer to the front.” A few brave souls did move closer, but most stayed put in the back.

OK, no problem, I'll work with this. Maybe we can tape the flip chart paper to the gigantic screen on the stage behind me. Then I noticed that there were NO FLIP CHARTS IN THE AUDITIORIUM AT ALL. (I had requested four and had confirmed earlier that day with the staff that they would be there.)

OK, where is my session monitor? There she is, but she has no clue as to what to do. She also is possibly the worst introducer in the world. She is supposed to just read a short little introduction for me, but she is so nervous she can't read it at all, can't pronounce simple words correctly, and just babbles until I cut her off with “Thanks so much!”

OK, I can deal with this. (It is now 5 minutes into my 55-minute presentation and I have not even started yet.) “Let's get started, everyone,” I say confidently and with a big smile. “Why don't you turn your handout to page 1?” “We have no handouts,” someone replies. No handouts? Where are the handouts? I turned to my clueless monitor. “Where are the handouts?” “I don't know,” she replies.

OK, don't despair. I'll adapt. I am nothing if not FLEXIBLE! By this time, someone has come into the auditorium carrying four flip charts with stands. I grab one of the flip charts, and proceed to try to replicate the agenda template (page 1 of the handout they do not have) on the page. (I am now beginning to hyperventilate.)

Then suddenly my inept monitor has good news—she has found the handouts! They were in a pile somewhere in the auditorium the whole time. The problem was that the incompetent idiots on the conference staff had put the cover page for my FIRST session (the one about investment clubs) on the handouts for my SECOND session!

OK, no problem, just ignore the cover page and turn to the template (which thankfully I no longer have to replicate on the flip chart). But oh, wait a minute—I need to get a couple of volunteers to record the “meeting” on the flip charts (which are now assembled behind me) so I can demonstrate the effectiveness of “public minutes.”

“Who would like to volunteer?” I ask encouragingly.

No one responds.

“Oh, come on, it'll be easy. No big deal. I just need a couple of you to help me out.”

No one responds.

These are all admins! They take minutes all the time! Why can't I get a volunteer now?!?!? (I'm beginning to feel rather hostile towards them.) Finally, I practically drag this one woman (whom I had met earlier and who looked like she might volunteer but only if I arm-wrestled her into it) up to the flip chart and the session, miraculously, starts for real.

But now I'm at least 10 minutes off my time; I can get only a few people to respond at all; and I am thinking I must be coming across now as very close to a crazed Don Rickles. In a few moments I am going to start insulting individual members of the audience.

The rest of the time goes by in a panicked blur.

Somehow I got through the session. And although nobody left early, I don't think they really got very much out of it.

What could I have done to salvage this disastrous second session?


It Was the Best of Times;
It was the Worst of Times


Dear Best/Worst:

I feel your pain. The exact same thing happened to me recently. To this day I remain convinced that if I had been able to conduct the session in the space I had originally requested (a small classroom with walls), if my handouts had been there (and correctly copied), if my session monitor had been competent, and if I had not had to run from one building to another, my second session would have gone gangbusters.

Sometimes you just have to be a Buddhist standup presenter: Chalk this one up to experience and let it go . . . .

Dr. Standup


Any other options? Send them to me and I'll publish them in next month's newsletter.

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If you have a suggestion for something we could do to make this newsletter even MORE useful as well as amusing, please contact us:

Dowling & Associates, Inc.
Ellen Dowling, President
(505) 307-1700