I recently presented at a conference where I understood that I did not need to bring handouts. “Everyone will access them on their tablet or computer or print them from the information in advance,” they said. I had to submit the handouts far in advance and the organizer commented on how they would be helpful for promotion. I thought all was good.

As you probably have already guessed, all was not well. The handouts weren’t posted in advance and so no one in the session had them. I was able to make the session intelligible by referring to the material on the PowerPoint, but it would have been much more beneficial for the participants if they had the information on hand. I will never be without them again.

It reminded me of a story I heard about the touring company of Hamilton. Apparently, they brought everything they needed with them – right down to the paper clips. I suspect that this is because of a similar situation where they needed something that they were told would be provided and it wasn’t.

I’m surprised that I didn’t bring handouts anyway because I routinely follow the scouting motto to “Be Prepared.” I bring my own whiteboard markers and eraser when I teach a class. I always have cash in case the person I’m with forgets his wallet or the establishment doesn’t take credit cards. I bring my own pillow when overnighting and I’m usually the one who has the equivalent of Hamilton’s paper clips when traveling. I come prepared!

It is easy to remember the big things, but it is often the little things that make the experience run smoothly. Think about what items add to your comfort and efficiency when you are away and take them with you. If the session doesn’t go well or the papers aren’t organized, it reflects on you more than the person who was supposed to provide the item for you.


I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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