May 13, 2016 Mitchell Derrey

As a speaker, you probably had a moment where everything that could possibly go wrong, did.  We’ve seen it all, so on this Friday the 13th, we want to share 13 scenarios that often get attributed to bad luck and how to keep them from ever happening again.  

  1. Equipment failure! You get on stage, ready to go, the microphone doesn’t work, the computer isn’t connecting to the projector, or the slide clicker runs out of batteries. You name it, it can happen! The only way to avoid equipment failure is to prepare for the unexpected. Find out, in advance, what equipment you will need or be supplied with, what type of room you will be presenting in, and who is responsible for the equipment. We always recommend rehearsing in the room before your presentation so you can test to ensure everything is running smoothly. This will help you relax and focus on your talk.
  2. Your presentation goes missing. Accidents happen at the worst times and sometimes files disappear! Maybe it became corrupted, was deleted in a server crash, or is just gone – forever! The answer is simple. Always keep a backup copy of your latest presentation with you on a thumb drive. Even if it’s not the (final) final version, it’s better than being caught empty handed. 
  3. Distractions. There is a whole world out there full of sounds and visuals that can take everyone’s focus off your presentation and can also break your concentration. It’s great to practice alone, free from all interruptions, but just know that there are many additional factors that will be in play during your talk. There may be a clock counting down your time, downstage monitors, lights, an audience, and a backstage crew. Practice your talk in front of other people or in a more open environment. Make sure you are prepared to stay focused.
  4. Staying healthy. You’ve prepared so long for your presentation and you end up sick on the day of your talk. You might have traveled on an airplane and are in a hotel and conference center. Be sure to plan enough time to relax and rest after your flight. Drink a lot of water as the climate control systems can cause dehydration. And don’t stay up all night rehearsing! Even if you wake up feeling a little under the weather, bring your best self to the stage and your audience will applaud you.
  5. Travel mishaps. Bad traffic, canceled or delayed flights, and lost baggage are all part of the hazards of travelling. Planning for the unknown is hard, so try to build extra time into your schedule. Fly in early if possible. Give yourself time to acclimate to the different time zone and plan on being at least 30-60 minutes early to your venue.
  6. Winging it. Bad presentations leave the audience bored, uninterested, or confused. Poor planning, not rehearsing, and over confidence may put you in a position of trying to wing it. Your audience will know. Don’t kid yourself. You need to invest time and practice into your presentation. 
  7. Awkward silences. Be aware of introducing humor into your talk as some jokes may not be appropriate, or can be considered offensive. To avoid hearing the crickets after landing a punchline, use humor wisely and keep your presentation to the point…unless you are a comedian of course.
  8. Over apologizing. Things happen that are out of your control, but as a presenter you need to show enthusiasm during your talk. Apologizing for being tired, late, or giving a less than stellar performance is distracting and puts your audience in a negative mindset. Do your best and let each individual evaluate the experience on their own.
  9. Awkward Q&A topics. Most presenters prefer to leave time for Q&A at the end of the session. This opens the door for the audience to lose track of what your takeaways were, or ask questions that you were not prepared to answer. End your talk with a call to action, or conclude with your main points. The things you said last are the ones they will remember most. If you welcome questions, have your contact information available, or take questions separately after your talk.
  10. Bad time slots. The time you are scheduled to present can greatly affect your audience. It may be right after lunch, or be the last session of the day on the last day of an event. It is only bad luck if you don’t pay attention and adjust your talk to the energy level of the audience. Be mindful of the schedule and be ready to add some extra punch. 
  11. Running out of time. Did you spend too long on a slide? Did an audience member’s question take up too much speaking time? Did your time slot get cut short? Well, when practicing your talk, observe how long each talking point should take. Know which parts you can cut out or short without compromising your narrative. And slow your pace if you are burning through your material too fast. Your audience will appreciate the on-time start and finish.
  12. Low or zero attendance. You are passionate about your topic, that’s a given. Only one problem…sometimes predicting how many other people are as excited about it as you are is difficult. Don’t get discouraged. With continually evolving technology, many presentations are available live to an online audience. You never know who may be watching/listening that isn’t physically in the room.
  13. Accidents. Did you trip, skip forward through slides, choke while taking a sip of water, or even worse, fall off the stage? Handle it like a pro. Jennifer Lawrence tripped on the stairs in front of millions on her way to accepting an Oscar and recovered like a champ. Don’t let accidents derail your presentation, brush it off and get back on track. 

Luck favors the prepared and the prepared have learned from bad luck. We have seen it all and are here to keep these scenarios out of your way so you can focus on yourself, your story, and delivering a phenomenal presentation.