How to prepare for tech meltdown during your presentation

Have you ever walked on stage for a presentation and your mic calls it quits? Or the clip you want to show is stuck with the dreaded loading wheel? Perhaps your Mac doesn’t play nice with the HDMI cable, and your beautiful presentation is reduced to a black screen? Cue awkward silence, scurrying AV support staff, overactive sweat glands and minutes that seem to move like molasses.

If you present enough, then you'll know these scenarios are not a case of if but when. So, do you have a plan B for when technology sabotages you? If you don't, then it's time to make one.

Do your preliminary checks.

If your flight crew are the responsible aviators they should be, they are going to run their pre-flight checks. Make sure the buttons work and flappy things flap and whatever else pilots need to do before taking off for a successful flight. The same analogy holds for your presentation.

Ok, so failure to run preliminary checks for your presentation might not have the same catastrophic outcomes as shoddy piloting, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. Go to the venue before you are due to talk. Make sure you check everything that you need is working as it should.

How to come prepared for poor connectivity.

Check the wifi at the venue during your preliminary check. If their connection is dodgy, you can try using 3G/4G. You may well find that connection is quicker than the wifi in some instances.

Better yet, plan to have your clips or websites downloaded before the presentation so that if you need to, you can run without connection. By downloading and saving any video or audio clips, you won't need to rely on streaming them during your talk.

How to prepare for a catastrophic power failure on all fronts.

The lights go out, the projector dims and the mic goes silent. It's a total power cut. Not an unheard-of event in South Africa. However, there's no reason for despair. There is metaphorical light at the end of the tunnel, if not actual light.

If you can't reschedule, then there are a few things you can do to salvage the day. Have your slide show presentation printed out to give to the audience as hardcopies. If the numbers are too big, then save it to a platform that the audience can access on their mobile devices (yay for mobile data!).

What should you say to your audience?

Apologise once to your audience for the inconvenience… And then move on. Don't keep harping on about it, or else when you've finished, the glitch is what they'll remember the most, not that presentation you slaved over for hours.

Give the AV people a chance to try and get you up and running again. But if you feel it's taking too long and their frenetic scrambling has become too distracting, then you'll need to call it. Announce to the audience that you'll be going ahead without the presentation and then hand out those hardcopy printouts or direct the audience to where your slide show is stored online.

Don't base your presentation around technology.

Be prepared to go it alone. You'll find this advice everywhere you search. If you are using your media correctly - as an enhancement to what you say rather than a crutch - then you should be able to smoothly wing your way through your presentation without the flashing pictures and sounds. In this article from Ryan Estis, he recommends you use media as "leverage tools to add something", not as the focus of your talk.

The audience is there to hear what you have to say, not watch your slide show or video clips. In fact, if you think of the great speeches delivered that find their way into our collective cultural conscious, it's the words, not the images that are remembered.

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