Keep calm and keep presenting

Technology failing you, Forgetting your lines, Having the wrong slides, Projector failing and having no slides at all, The list of potential presentation fails goes on and on.

Anything can go wrong when presenting. Scary right?

You can only fail if you decide to stop presenting and be beaten. My advice to you when things do go wrong is simple….

….Keep calm and keep presenting.

Here’s a classic example of how even high level presentations can go very wrong.

Poor movie producer Michael Bay blamed this embarrassing presentation fail on the teleprompter device. What he should have realised is that being on stage and presenting isn’t like the movies, there is no second or third take, there’s just one opportunity to present.

Watching the above video gives me goose bumps, and is enough to put anybody off from presenting. But dealing with situations like this is actually really simple. Here’s a couple of things I’d advise should this ever happen to you:

  1. Don’t tell them something is wrong.
    If there is a problem with your slides or some piece of technology misbehaving don’t feel like you have to tell the audience. From a presenters point of view even the simplest mistake feels massive because you’ve rehearsed and seen the presentation dozens of times. Remember that the audience are seeing your presentation for the first time so they aren’t going to notice a mistake or some piece of technology not working as it should, well that is unless the projector bursts into flames during your presentation!
  2. Be human.
    If your presentation really does go south and you’re left on stage like a rabbit in the headlights just remember there are humans in the audience, and you are also human (I hope). It’s okay to put your hands up and be honest with your audience. Just recently I presented at an event and was the only one using a Mac which seemed to confuse the hell out of the event organisers trying to connect my laptop to the projector! Rather than panic and have a long awkward silence I moved to the front of the stage and asked if anyone had questions before I started my presentation. Everyone could see the events team behind me working away but I just kept going.
  3. Ditch the script.
    Although you might have rehearsed with a script over and over again always be prepared to ditch it at the last minute. Rather than trying to remember your lines like a movie star it’s much better to have a few simple bullet points to remember. You can even go as far as to write these down and have them in your pocket just in case technology (or your own brain) fails you on the day. Your audience will also pick up on a very scripted presentation so delivering in a more relaxed and natural way will be much better received.

I always like to remind myself before I present to big groups that even if everything goes wrong I’m definitely not going to die! That might sound extreme but it always makes me laugh just before I present and that in turn puts me in a good mindset to deal with anything that gets thrown at me.

Just remember to keep calm and keep presenting.

Russell (aka The Prezenter)