You have a captive audience for 45 minutes. You’ve worked hard on your presentation: slides, transition, talking point, and animation. You are introduced. You click on the first slide. Nothing. Your computer locks and you feel the sweat trickle on your brow as you hit, CTRL-ALT-DEL.
This exact scenario occurred once when I was giving a presentation to a group of architects, engineers and contractors. The worst part was that my talk, Lessons from the Movies: Negotiating and Drafting Construction Contracts, absolutely required the use of a computer. So, there I stood, with two locked computers, a presentation that focused exclusively on movie clips, and a captive audience.
What should you do? Here are some tips when your presentation goes bad:
- Prepare for the "bad" before the presentation. Since I had problems with a similar presentation, I thought I was prepared by bringing two computers. Little did I know (or expect) that the second computer would not work either. Luckily, I printed out my presentation earlier in the day and had some written notes on the slides. I was able to adjust the presentation based upon my written notes.
- Embrace "humility" in your presentation. When the first laptop went down, I chuckled. When the second laptop went down, I smiled. (I admit, I was not too happy on the inside!) Although I had some written notes, this mishap gave me an opportunity to show the real me. Rather than movie scenes, I talked about my marriage and children, which provided some good examples of negotiating and drafting contracts. I talked about my move from Washington to Nashville, which provided some good talking points about reputation and integrity. In other words, you can turn a bad situation into good by opening your own "book of life" and sharing some experiences. Be humble. They will understand.
- Remember the "point" of your presentation. Of course, a presentation that has embedded video clips may be "more polished" than the previous speakers at this event. However, you are presumably speaking because you have something to say … some words of wisdom … some advice. Understand that "you" are the presentation, which may help prepare you for those occasions when the laptop fails.
Question: What tips do you have for when the presentation goes bad?
Image: Filippo Minelli