I was late for class one day so I rushed into the room, hurried down the aisle, missed a step and fell flat on my face. The room went silent. Was I hurt? Before anyone could come to my assistance I rolled over, sat up, and joked about how a dramatic entrance is a good way to get attention.
If you’ve ever been on a platform, taught a class, led a group or done any counseling you know that the unexpected sometimes happens. Even experienced speakers and peak performers encounter problems at times. Last month, Apple CEO Steve Jobs was presenting the new iPhone 4 to a large international audience. Suddenly the new device stopped working. Jobs calmly acknowledged the problem, shifted to a backup plan and kept going. A few days later Macworld.com (June 11, 2010) distributed a message describing what Jobs did and listing ways for all of us to “beat presentation panic.” Consider these:
- Try not to panic. Glitches make everybody feel tense and uncomfortable. If the presenter stays calm the audience relaxes. Steve Jobs rehearses well before speaking. He knows his material. When the phone did not work he acknowledged the problem, asked his technical aids and audience volunteers for assistance and kept going with another part of his presentation.
- Use humor. This diffuses audience insecurity and concerns about the speaker. I have tripped on stage more than once. In every case I’ve joked about it and then gone on with my talk.
- Be sensitive to the audience. One time a man had a heart attack when I was speaking. I asked for a doctor or nurse, prayed as the man was taken from the room, made some sensitive comments and eased back into my presentation. If something makes the audience feel uncomfortable this needs to be acknowledged before you move forward.
- Have backup plans. I always bring copies of my slides and have two computers ready in case one doesn’t work.
Consider this: “The ability to deal with glitches distinguishes between a good presenter and one who is below average.” How have you dealt with presentation glitches? Please click on comments and let us know.