How to survive presentation nightmares (without Einstein’s help)

downloadUrban legend has it that when Einstein was on the speaker circuit his faithful driver, Harry, learned his speech word for word.  Einstein’s driver also happened to look like him.  On a whim, at an evening presentation, Einstein and his driver decided to swap places.  Einstein donned the chauffeur’s cap and jacket and sat in the back of the room.  The chauffeur presented Einstein’s speech perfectly.  And then a pompous professor asked a tough question and the chauffeur simply replied: “Sir, the answer to your question is so simple that I will let my chauffeur, who is sitting in the back, answer it for me.”

So often when we are presenting and are asked a curly question, we wish we could flick it to Einstein sitting in the audience.

The other guarantee for presentations is that technology will fail (usually at a critical point).  How are you going to turn these presentation lemons into lemonade?

With the curly question, honesty is usually the best policy and you could simply say: “I don’t know, but I can find out and get back to you.”  You could even ask the audience if anyone else has insights or suggestions.  Drawing on the wisdom of the crowd can also buy you time.

When technology fails, it is a good idea to have a humourous quip ready.  I do an impersonation of my Indian mother, talking about my missed vocation in IT.  (It’s very funny, but you have to be there!)  And then you really need to have a plan B.  This could involve doing your presentation without any slides, moving to a Q&A format, or going analogue and using a whiteboard.

How have you turned presentation lemons into lemonade?  Please share.

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1 Comment
  • Sundar Rajamanickam

    I attended few trainings over the last few months. One trend that I noticed drastically different was that all of the sessions were in a collaborative, interactive mode. The days of the presenter doing all the ‘heavy lifting’ seems to have gone. The trainer/presenter spent 25% time with slides overall. The rest were all thought provoking discussions, workshops, games, interactive sessions, sharing of experiences, new ideas from the whole group. This way, we all enjoyed the sessions, experienced and practiced what was being thought in relevance to our context and also learnt from others. Truly impressive.

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