On my way to a special night out last week, I was edging out of the parking lot of a local mall when a speeding white car suddenly hit the front of my car, and then spun around and plowed into the side door of a parked vehicle. Fortunately, no bystanders were struck, no air bags inflatedA woman sitting at a table with papers and a laptop. and I didn’t feel any pain at the impact. The young man who’d been driving fast with blaring music struggled out of his car complaining that his back hurt. He left by ambulance but the paramedic firefighters assured me he would be fine.

Since my car was in the right-of-way, the police officer put my name at the top of the report. The good news was that there would be no ticket, he told me, because we were on private property.

Bottom line, the car accident on what was supposed to be a fun night at a jazz concert reminded me once again that we are never really totally in control. As a leader and a speaker, things happen that can seriously interfere with our best laid plans.

Here are some ideas to help you avoid unnecessarily awkward or disastrous moments:

  1. As a speaker, I encourage you to always bring a copy of your introduction with you, because even if you have sent it in advance, there’s a high probability that your introducer forgot to download your file. This extra step assures that everyone looks good and not disorganized – the group that invited you, the person designated to introduce you, and you, yourself, with the right information about you properly presented.
  2. Whether you’re leading an in-house meeting or an external presentation, print out two sets of your speaking notes and agenda; something or someone may spill liquid on them before it’s your turn to talk! (Keep them in separate folders.)
  3. While you’re at the printer, make two color copies of all your slides or visuals. In case the projector, the Internet or other technology does not work, you can use your print-out as a guide to carry on with your message.
  4. Put a copy of your slide presentation onto two different flash drives, because sometimes, for no obvious reason, one may not work.

Get in the habit of packing an extra outfit when you have a speaking engagement, even locally. More than a few times in my career I’ve found myself running to the rest room to change before I was due on stage! Buttons come off, stains show up out of nowhere, you or someone else spills something in a highly visible place, along with other kinds of unwanted adventures.