March 5th, 2019 Devon Els
Missing Link has a tradition called “Hell Week”. It’s a right of passage that every team member must complete in order to be fully accepted into our crazy, hard-working family. After the first 6 months of learning and improving, the new team member gets to show off their presentation skills by presenting on a topic – that is given to them 3 days before the presentation – to the whole office.
Once it’s presented, we all get to have a swing at guessing what that mystery topic was. It’s a bit like presentation Charades, except the criteria includes educating the team on that particular topic too. The topic must not be blurted out, of course, but rather revealed through the presentation narrative. All of this, built and delivered, in 3 days.
Recently, one brave gladiator stepped into the arena and tackled the lion of a Hell Week task. As you may imagine, it’s quite the challenge, because the only time Missing Link ever sets the bar low is in Limbo. We have a team of eat-sleep-breathe-preso experts who are watching with a keen eye on structure, narrative, design, delivery and, the most important part, delivery of a message to achieve a result. That day, he set the scene with the story of the Balloonfest of ’86…
Cleveland, Ohio, it’s a sunny day, the kind of day that would make one want to frolic with a hat on and eat strawberries. But on this day, hundreds of people from the United Way of Cleveland gathered under a gigantic tent, not frolicking, but working together to attempt to break a world record. As a harmless publicity stunt, almost one-and-a-half million balloons were to be released over the city to create a remarkable spectacle to behold. An already decent day was going to become brilliant! But they were in a race against time, as an approaching storm was fast becoming a threat to not only ruining a beautiful day, but potentially ruining their record-breaking extravaganza. So, throwing caution to the wind, the balloons were released early to avoid disaster. It was indeed remarkable, and it was the last time such an event was ever attempted…
You see, if one does some investigating into storms and weather on Google, you’ll discover that storms bring in a wave of cool air before they actually arrive. Storms are a lot like mother-in-laws in that sense. So on release, in order to avoid the cold atmosphere and tension, the helium balloons made a break for it and headed straight to the ground (instead of the expected spectacle of rising into the air sailing towards the heavens. The result: This rogue balloon behaviour led to unpredictable and extremely detrimental results. Cleveland definitely did not foresee their big day becoming one of the most notable accidents in history. The ground-level inflated balloons clogged waterways, and parked themselves in streets all over the city, becoming hazardous for drivers. Accidents presented themselves in the form of swerving, stopping and tires screeching. Burke Lakefront Airport were forced to shut down a runway for hours because the coloured orbs were causing landing complications. In a pasture of Arabian Horses nearby, the animals were completely spooked by the exploding balloons that were hovering down into their territory, causing panic and havoc between them, leaving them with permanent injuries. The owner of the horses sued the United Way of Cleveland for $100 000 in damages. Could this day get worse? The answer is yes. Two fisherman had gone out to sea and were reported missing. When the coast guard attempted to rescue them, they could not spot their boat amongst all the balloon pollution. The two were only found the next day when they washed up on the shore.
What was intended to be a delightful charity event and world record turned into a miserable accident and one of the most infamous mistakes in history. Even though the United Way of Cleveland had the best intentions, they did not have the best outcome.
Our gladiator paused on stage for us to grasp the weight of this catastrophic event. Then he went on to reveal the link between good intentions and a good result. Are you ready? Get a pen and write this down. It’s a doozy.
It’s all about having a plan.
I know, right!? It’s about being prepared. It’s that simple. If the United Way of Cleveland had prepared properly, forecasting the bad weather, or understanding how bad weather affects helium in balloons, or even just decided to release the balloons at a later time (on a differing day when there wasn’t a storm), things could’ve possibly turned out better. Cleveland assumed that the storm wouldn’t be too problematic, and became another case study proving that assumptions are the mother of all… balloon incidents. How can one avoid assuming? By having a plan as solid as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s legs.
This is the importance of having a plan. Plan. Plan. Plan. At the very least, the importance of taking new information and complications (like a storm) in your stride and adjusting your plan. If circumstances change, your outcome will too. A solution to most problems is thinking through all the possible logistics and outcomes so that you can be more prepared than Chuck Norris and MacGyver’s lovechild. Don’t pull a Cleveland; avoid disaster before it occurs so that your decent day can stay blameless, maybe even become brilliant. Go out, and check that your plan will reflect your best intentions.
Our gladiator nailed his Hell Week task and is now a fully-fledged Missing Link preso soldier, readily available to slay boredom and kick ass. One can definitely put his success down to a plan, because with only 3 days to prepare he couldn’t rely on confidence and skill alone. He needed a roadmap to channel his efforts in the right direction. He needed a plan, to convey the importance of having a plan. Plan inception, if you will.
So, regardless of whether you have 3 days to prepare for a presentation or 30, it’s all about maximising utility. Yes, it seems like a big difference but 30 days can easily turn into 3 with procrastination or tossing around blindly and redoing mistakes. Hence the utmost importance of planning regardless of the time span. What we take away from Hell Week is that it is possible to pull together a cool and meaningful preso in crunch time, provided one has a plan and the skills that would be acquired in a Boredom Slayers session. We can’t wait to see what the next Hell Week gladiator has in store for us, as long as they have a plan.