Speech hackers can usually be addressed with the appropriate amount of preparation, but our website was hacked.  Again.  It was the fourth major attack since January.  Each time it rendered the website an alarming (literally) mess of malware and phishing links.  It was annoying.  Embarrassing.  And it hurt our business because prospects and clients couldn’thacked computer and speech hackers reach us and it sucked resources away from other tasks.

The root cause was likely negligence on our part – long-term failure to update plug-ins, sporadic monitoring, and a commitment to frugality that perhaps borders on cheap at times.  It showed up with SQL injection and hidden tags, re-formed index.php files, VBS scripts and bogus Javascript calls, and readme files with semi-veiled threats and ridicule.  If that’s all confusing to you, please don’t click the “update Flash now” button when your browser starts acting funny.  No matter.  The website was down and hazardous to viewers.  And while we’ve had plans to overhaul the site for years, just keeping it running became the immediate priority.

For several months, I fought back by cleaning things up with my rudimentary web skills (I did learn HTML back in the early 90s, and PHP in the early 2000s, and …  well, I’m not very current on modern technology).  It took an hour.  Or a few.  It was tedious and repetitive.  Searching for files and deleting them.  I’d update all the plug-ins.  And wait.  Another breach would happen again a few weeks later.

Finally, it just got too annoying.  I paid an expert (props to Page Progressive!) and the transfer to a new secure hosting service was done in less than aPage Progressive Web designers day.  They’ll be able to monitor attacks and keep things up-to-date.  I can sleep easier now.

We do have a new system to learn.  There were tons of broken links and edits and color changes and formatting to polish and a few improvements to make while we’re in editing other files.  It was not without headaches.  And it will never be “done.”  But we are confident you can visit our website now without risk of a virus. The information is easier to find and read and get what you need.

What does a hacked website have to do with speaking, you ask?  A lot. 

There are so many speech hackers that undermine a speech or meeting.

Examples of Speech Hackers:

  • Speech hackers might be malicious – the heckler or the meeting attendee with a cruel agenda.
  • More likely it’s the person who is just clueless: “I need to make a few announcements ahead of your speech – it will only take a minute” (and it takes ten).
  • Many times it’s self-inflicted – not putting in the preparation time to overhaul old content and just getting by with last year’s slides because the urgent trumps the important.

Three lessons we can learn about speaking from a hacked website:

  1. The public doesn’t care about your problems.  While a few of you were nice enough to alert us to the problem (and one well-meaning soul from Spain threatened us with a lawsuit), whether you’re prepared or not, the stage is calling.  When the boss calls your name at the meeting, the start time for the conference comes, or the reporter sticks the mic in your face, it’s showtime. Your preparation is a moot point now. All that matters is what the public sees.
  2. Experience is the best defense in a moment of need.  The more well-versed you are in a subject, the easier it is to handle new problems. Speaker experience is key when the stage lights get a little hotter than you like.  Training matters.  And there’s only one way to get experience – say “Yes!” to the stage!
  3. Call in the experts.  When a problem is just bigger than you are, a second set of (expert) eyes is worth whatever it costs.  Your slides likely need a designer’s touch.  Your skills could use some coaching.  Your team is likely to have input that will make your presentation better.

The average person browsing the web has no idea what phishing is, how WordPress templates work, how to reset the cache on DNS lookups, or what a secure HTTP protocol gains you.  They just know when a website is down (or giving off warnings), they probably aren’t coming back.  An audience member probably has no idea the preparation and expertise a speaker has invested.  They only know if the talk is easy to listen to, handled professionally, and gives them value.

What speaking improvement have you been putting off? 

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This article was published in the April 2018 edition of our monthly speaking tips email, Communication Matters. Have speaking tips like these delivered straight to your inbox every month. Sign up today and receive our FREE eBook, “Twelve Tips that will Save You from Making a Bad Presentation.”  You can unsubscribe at any time.