When your Presentation Turns to Custard!

Don't let a 'thumbs down' put you off.

Don’t let a ‘thumbs down’ put you off.

You’re prepared. Your presentation looks fantastic, you have multiple file types, your presentation is on your hard drive, in your Dropbox account and backed up in Google Drive. You have every A/V adapter you can think of, and even considered making overheads (but the venue didn’t have an overhead projector – you called to find out). So you’re about as prepped as you can possibly be. Nothing can go wrong, right?

Wrong! You just laid down a  challenge to the presentation gods, so yes, something can go wrong, and it likely will.

Ever heard of natural disasters, insomnia, or gremlins? At some point in your presentation career, something will go wrong, so what can you do about it?

Obviously there is only so much preparation you can do, and you can’t conceivably prepare for everything from Volcanic eruptions to a rodent infestation. But what you can prepare, is you. You need to sharpen up your mental game. You need to know that no matter what, you can still roll with your presentation … without the pretty tools.

What happens to a presenter when something goes wrong is usually one of three things. Make sure you are aware of these, and have a plan to stop yourself from making a bad situation worse.


Something went wrong so you are now trying to overcompensate, which in turn becomes more than a little awkward for you and the audience. Just relax, take a deep breath and continue.  You know what you are talking about, you’ve done your homework!

Nope, it didn’t happen:

At the other end of the scale is ignoring it. Acknowledge the mistake please. Don’t just keep moving and pretend nothing happened and that you didn’t just skip 2 important slides. The audience will be thinking about what they missed, and it may take them good 5 or 10 minutes to catch up with you. Which means it’s not just 2 slides they missed out on, more like 6, and then you have really lost them.

The Comedian:

Please don’t do this. You made a mistake, fine. You made a joke about it, that’s good too as you now have your audience in the palm of your hand, we’ve all been there. But stop there. Don’t keep making jokes about what happened, or what might happen, or about what you wore etc. Your audience will just feel embarrassed for you and probably even tweet about it. Don’t be the bad comedian.

Remember the most important part of the presentation is that the audience remembers your message. If you can roll with the mistakes, acknowledge the issue and then keep moving you should be fine. Remember it’s YOU that is the critical element. So if your puppy eats the flash drive you took home to finish off your fantastically designed presentation, you can still pull it off. Take note of some of the most highly viewed Ted Talks, the really good presenters don’t need props, what they have is only themselves. They are prepared, confident and know the material and they keep the audience engaged.

So what about you, do you have any tricks when things go wrong with your presentation?