As you probably know, when the President of the United States prepares for the State of the Union address each year, he has one task that has nothing to do with his speech. Morbidly, the U.S. Capitol is a prime target for attack when all of our political leaders are inside of it…so the President picks one person to stay ‘outside’—ready to lead the nation if need be.
There’s this episode on the West Wing about this very situation where President Bartlet asks the Secretary of Agriculture, Roger Tribby, to stay behind. They talk about the possibility of Tribby actually needing to take over and what he should do in that event. Then, as he walks out the door, Bartlet says to the Secretary, “Roger, do you have a best friend?” Roger says yes. “That’s your Chief of Staff.”
If you watched the show, you’d know that statement was a clear nod to Bartlet’s Chief of Staff and best friend, Leo—who earlier in the episode had the President’s back…big time.
Clearly, this is all about backup. And not just any backup…really, really good backup that you can trust completely, even in—especially in—situations where you are trailblazing. You know, like the presidency. Or a corporate meeting.
Meetings harbor many moving parts and many unknowns—both human and technological. Those are tablestakes. But sometimes, those stakes get pushed. I, for one, am a huge fan of using new technology and doing things in a way that has never been done before. But, I never do them without backup.
In fact, recently, we used some new technology to run an entire general session…and we backed it up six ways from Sunday. Seriously, we ran that new software and had three completely separate (read: different software) backup programs running simultaneously, should anything go wrong. It didn’t. But, as we all know, everything that could’ve gone wrong likely would’ve, if we hadn’t had the backup.
And at this same show, our client actually built in their own form of backup. Their goal was to deliver their content at any cost—they had this one day to do it and dang it, it was going to happen. So, they had a backup speaker for every one of their scheduled speakers. Built-in backup? Check. Always prepared? Check. A zillion scenarios trouble-shot? Check.
If your best friend is your Chief of Staff, then a good backup plan is your Chief of Preparedness…big time.