How Do You Survive Any Presentation Disaster?

Well it happened. It was a disaster of epic proportions. You may think that just memorizing the English part of your presentation was the hard part. However, that was not all. The projector did not work. You forgot an important part of the middle of your presentation. And to top it off, a member of the audiences asked you a question that you could not answer.  Talk about a bad day.
 
But if you did three simple things: Identify, Prepare, and Review, you could be able to handle any issue.
 
Most of us don`t ever start with identifying the possible problems. I know I didn`t. For example, I spent more than 30 hours on one 7 minutes presentation. I searched for the perfect pictures. I spent many hours finding the prefect font. I went over and over practicing the timing on my slides.

Then when I get to the venue, I found out that my Mac does not want to cooperate with the projector. I just wanted to fling my mac across the room. However, that was not going to make the situation better so I just improvised and soldiered on. It was not great, but I barely survived.
 
It was only afterwords that I released that I needed to deal with something that most people put off. That is Risk Management. Risk Management and Presentations? What an odd couple. But two very important partners. So on to three pillars!
 

Identify

 
For any presentation, there are three areas where trouble can arise and you need to identify them. These are environment, the audience, and yourself.
 

Environment

The environment is not just room, but all the equipment in the room and factors effecting it.
For example:

  • The projector does not work.
  • The microphone howls.
  • The pin mic`s battery dies.
  • The room is too hot or too cold.
  • There is no lectern to put your notes on.
  • The previous speaker was too long and you have half the time.

 
Can you think of anymore?
 

Audience

Some members of the audience can be a source of trouble no matter how good your presentation is. You may run into people who:
 

  • Constantly interrupt or complain
  • Ask questions not related to the presentation
  • Ask questions you do not know the answer
  • Heckle you
  • Give unappropriated responses to your questions
  • Refuse to cooperate with anything you say

 
Can you think of anymore?
 

You and your helpers

We are human and we make mistakes. It is better best prepare for when those mistakes do happen.  For example: 
 

You

  • Have part of your pants rip
  • Leave your fly open
  • Tell a joke and it flops, utterly

 

Staff

  • Bring the wrong handout
  • Bring the right handout but the wrong slides
  • Jump past a couple of presentation slides


 
Can you think of anymore?

I have just given you a broad framework of three elemenets: Environment, Audience, and You and your helpers. This will help you list out all the possible things that could go wrong. But not everything has to fit. This is just something to help. So, go and take a few minutes to list out a couple more.
 

Prepare

Once you have that list. Then you need to prepare. There are whole list of ways. For example, let`s look at the projector not working. You could:
 

  • Bring a paper copy as backup
  • Use a flip chart or whiteboard
  • Use your smartphone or tablet   ※You can connect projectors from these devices
  • Use a different version of the presentation that doesn`t need slides

 
There is no one correct answer. It depends on your style and what you are comfortable with. But try to practice with a couple to see what works for you.
 
Now please go through the list above and go through the other possible problems you came up with and write down as many possible solutions as you can. Do it NOW.
 
Just so you know, I have tried all of the above. But each time, I think about what could possibly go wrong with the projector: bad cable, wrong connector, bulb burns out, etc. I also think, “Do I need this slide in the first place?” A lot of the time the slides themselves are not needed.
 

Review

 
Reviewing is important. It is great that you have identified the problem and that you have prepared for them. But once you have tried them in practice or in front of audience, it is good to go back and review.
 
Here are some questions to consider when you review.

1.       Did your solution work?
2.       Why or why not?
3.       How could you make it better?
 
For example, instead of slides you use the whiteboard instead. But, sometimes your handwriting was too small or not readable. What do you do next?
 
You could try practice writing on the whiteboard more. You could try to write larger and neater. Or you could just try to create a presentation that doesn`t need you to write anything.  That choice is up to you and the feedback you get.
 
In any case I suggest you at least practice those solutions every once and while, so that when the problem does occur, you remember what to do.  You also look natural when you do fix the problem.
 

Conclusion

 
To review, not all presentations go perfectly. We need to take care of possible problems that could go wrong in any presentation. We need to Identify all the possible things that could go wrong. We need to prepare for each problem. And we need to review our solutions. This will help up grow and ensure that we can survive no matter what problem arises. Or at the very least, don`t look foolish when the projector isn`t working.
 
So, get out there, and plan for the worst!  Please let me know if you got a good plan. I would love to hear it! If you want to get more articles like this in your mailbox please subscribe!