Article: Technological Presentations Gone Wrong

You are hot tonight!! This is going to be a good speech! You’ve rehearsed. You’ve custom-tailored your presentation to this specific audience: the primary 1,847 opinion leaders of planet earth. Your laptop and projector are set up and tested, awaiting your commands to come to life and bedazzle this audience. Your whole life’s work has led up to this moment….

Murphy’s Law is just as applicable in communicating a life-changing revolution for the advancement of mankind, as it is to showing a few friends slides from your vacation at Aunt Matilda’s cottage-near-the-lake in Oshkosh.

You’ve been introduced to the assemblage by the Chairman of the International Federation For World Peace. Just as the applause reaches a crescendo, the Chairman spills his Coconut & Chili Pepper Smoothie all over your laptop keyboard. As an experienced speaker and presenter himself, he calmly leans over to your ear and whispers, “Oooops! Good luck!” Then confidently departs the stage.

While his Coconut & Chili Pepper Smoothie permeates the recesses within your computer, and the applause diminishes, you observe your laptop screen ominously flicker across your presentation title: “The Solutions for Planet Earth.” Just as your screen dies completely, you contemplate how life would be right now if 23 years earlier you had chosen a career in the area of Paper Clip Management instead of devoting your life to improving the conditions of mankind.

If you are using presentation technology, such as an overhead, slide, video, or digital projector, part of your preparation should include how to handle equipment failure.

Using technology to enhance a presentation is as vital as it is problematic. Technology can add impact to your presentation. It can emphasize key points. It can also be a detriment if it is overly featured and becomes the focus of the presentation itself. Your message should not be eclipsed by the technology. And of course, technology can fail: Power cords can be lost, back-up batteries and bulbs can be forgotten, overhead slides can be left on airplanes, and electronic equipment is subject to the vagaries of Coconut & Chili Pepper Smoothies. Bottom line: Murphy’s Law revels in the area of technical presentations.

So, how do you make things go right when technology may seem to want to make things go wrong?

You can’t; you are doomed.

Well…maybe not completely….

Perhaps showing Aunt Matilda’s vacation slides can be re-scheduled if the projector bulb burns out and you don’t have a spare. But how about a presentation that cannot be re-scheduled, such as “you” are presenting to the International Federation Of World Peace right now, and your equipment has failed completely?

Solution: Transition your presentation into a non-technical delivery, and still impinge your message on the audience. This includes minimizing attention on the technology that has just gone kaput; perhaps even making fun of it.

Some ideas: Revert to writing on a flip chart or chalk board, if available. Refer more to any handouts if such had been distributed. Have the audience imagine things. Ask the audience for more examples. Describe more fully the concepts that need to be elucidated. Be creative. Maintain a viewpoint of “Spirit of Play.” Above all—deliver your message.

You may even find the audience additionally respectful of your ability to handle things in spite of equipment failures.

And when you’re all done, treat the Chairman and yourself to a fresh Coconut & Chili Pepper Smoothie. Let world peace reign!

About George Alger

George is a Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM); Principal of Local TV Advertising Agency,; Founder of; Past President of the Renaissance Speakers (1999-2000); Cable TV Producer (see; and an ardent motorcycle and photography enthusiast. (He also eats too much organic dark chocolate). Visit for more info.