Presentation Magazine

What to do if it all falls apart

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everything you ever did was perfect, everything ran to schedule and smoothly and nothing ever went wrong? Hmm, if only!! You can try to plan every minor detail but sometimes things DO go wrong and we need to keep that in mind, especially when planning our presentation. Of course, we will always keep our fingers crossed and hope that your presentations are always spot on but just in case… the key word is “expectation”.

Let’s expect it to go wrong and prepare in advance.  Then we can carry on knowing that if it does, or rather, when it does, then it doesn’t really matter.

Many people rely heavily on PowerPoint and computer use for their presentation, which is great.  It’s a great device, why not use it for what it was made for?

But what if the only computer in the room doesn’t work on that day? What if the whiteboard or projector fails and there isn’t another available for a week?

Take a copy with you

Firstly, if you have your presentation on a laptop, or saved to hard disk, make sure you also have a separate copy on USB/flash drive/memory stick, or saved on a CD-ROM. It may be a good idea perhaps to do this using screenshots of your actual presentation just in case there isn’t a usable program on any back-up system. Yes, this is unlikely in this age of mass computerisation, however, why take the chance? It takes a few minutes extra to save it twice once all the groundwork has been done.

Print out your slides

Secondly, regardless of where your presentation is saved, it is always a good idea to print your slides beforehand. Firstly, because if things go smoothly it will prevent you from looking at the screen constantly and having your back to the audience, and secondly because in the event of a technical disaster you will still know what you were going to say.

My main advice would be to design your presentation in a way that means you are neither relying solely on notes, nor on a computerised performance, because if you use both, then you will be covered for either circumstance going wrong.

And, if things really go disastrously wrong, don’t be afraid to call a well-timed break, or ask your audience if they would mind giving you a short intermission to re-plan and get things back on track. It will look a lot more professional if you remain in complete control than if you stand there fumbling, and looking incompetent whilst fiddling with equipment.

Instead, just laugh it off, put it down to experience and turn it into a joke, whilst proving that you can hold things together in any situation.

Sharren L Bessant


Published On: 5th Apr 2010

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  1. Thanks for your suggestions. I will from now on.

    Marie 10 Apr at 9:14 pm
  2. “Keep calm and carry on,” would be my advice.

    Things go wrong, technically, prior to public speaking; be it powerpoint or even (from my own, somewhat traumatic experience) a leaky biro rendering your notes incomprehensible. But the important thing is to see this as an opportunity to demonstrate forethought and ingenuity.

    When I was fourteen I went to an R.E.M. concert in Manchester, and there was a powercut about two songs in. After only five minutes of messing about, the band picked up acoustic guitars and (using some microphones that I, to this day, don’t know how worked) improvised with what they had. My point is I remember this concert much more vividly and fondly than any other I’ve seen.

    When a powerpoint fails, get out your pre-prepared printouts.

    When your printouts are damaged, find a big piece of paper, pin it up, and write on that.

    When there’s a complication with the venue, apologise, get everyone up and take them elsewhere.

    People will put a lot of trust in someone they’ve seen to rescue situations like this. When things fall apart, put them back together quickly, calmly, and safe in the knowledge you’ve seized a new opportunity.

    Daran ( 26 Jul at 2:49 pm
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