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