How to Save Any Presentation From a Technology Meltdown

Persuasiveness Coach & Speaker and founder of Observe Connect Influence
4 min read
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These days you can give a speech, sales presentation or run a team meeting from anywhere in the world. Services like GotoMeeting and GoogleHangouts make it so that any group leader can teach from the comfort of their own office. Dress professional from the waist up and you’re good to go.

Speeches can be accompanied by soundtracks, pictures and supported with video footage. You don’t even have to be funny. Just play a viral clip from YouTube and you’re golden!

But what happens when the technology decides to ruin your presentation by not working? Technology can be a cruel mistress, leaving you to pick up the pieces while your audience waits. Here's a four-step process to help you save a presentation gone wrong:

1. Don’t freak out. I was leading a webinar for about 50 people recently when my presentation flow was halted by a terrible static noise in my headset followed by complete silence. I spoke, no response. I typed in the chat, no response. At this moment, my head was filled with every Southern swear word I could think of. Thankfully I didn't say any of them because after a minute or two, my phone rang and on the line was an attendee who found my number on my site. “Um, Sharí, we can hear you.” Thank goodness I kept my cool! So, while the glitch was getting fixed I kept on going with my prepared speech. While I felt like I was speaking into a void, the audience was still getting the content they came for.

2. Don’t rely on slides. When that webinar cut out, I also lost control of the slides. If I didn’t know my presentation through-and-through I would have been completely stuck and my audience members would have abandoned the webinar all together. Thankfully, we didn’t lose one audience member. They were still getting content, even if it didn’t include flashy, pretty slides. Keep in mind, this rule also applies to live presentations. You never know when some chord will get loose and your slides disappear. To keep you audience engaged, you have to be able to seamlessly continue on while the tech gods fix the problem.

3. Turn it into a learning moment. I was a part of the studio audience for a Creative LIVE presentation in Seattle recently. Creative LIVE streams free 3-day live seminars on a variety of topics online. I was there to watch Joey Coleman talk about enhancing customer experience. On day three of the seminar, the live feed cut out and people watching online were not happy. The technical problem was with Creative LIVE's partner and there was nothing they could do about it except wait. The problem was fixed about an hour later. Brilliantly, Joey turned what could have been a nightmare into a fantastic teachable moment. He tied the problem into lessons in his speech. Then, he graciously offered additional content and a bonus webinar as a way of saying "Thanks for sticking with us." A technical blunder doesn’t have to be the death of your presentation or overall message. Stay sharp and find a way to turn it into an opportunity.

4. Bounce back quickly with a recovery line. If you are someone who delivers presentations on a regular basis,  you know there are common things that can go wrong. The slides go dark, the microphone cuts out, you drop something, the clicker stops working, you trip (hey, it happens!). Professional speakers and stand-up comics have what is known as 'saver lines' locked and loaded, ready to be used at a moment's notice. Professional speaker Brian Walter has a lot of humor in his presentations. When a joke flops, his go-to is “When (name exec) told me during lunch that that would be a funny line, I believed him.” Typos on slides can be embarrassing. Leadership speaker David Dye uses a great saver when a typo is in his presentation. "Mark Twain said ‘never trust a man who can only spell a word one way’… Clearly, I'm trying to earn your trust." For more savers, I recommend What to Say When You’re Dying on the Platform by Lilly Walters.

With any live performance, numerous things can go wrong. If you panic, your audience will panic. Keep your cool, have fun and continue as best you can. The show must go on! 

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