SatNav has made complete idiots of us all.
Even though you know you should really come off at the next junction, or keep going straight on, you do as you’re told. You listen to the computerised voice of reason telling you to ‘Take the second exit…’ And you end up going the wrong way.
This over reliance on a third party is not just confined to the box of tricks guiding you along the highway and byways. But, fortunately, there’s usually an alternative.
SatNav doesn’t work? Get a map. Or, and I know this is difficult (particularly for the men amongst us), ask for directions.
TV on the blink? Play a game. There’s always something you can do.
PowerPoint won’t work? Well, that’s completely different, obviously – my entire talk depends on those slides. Without them, everything’s buggered!
When this does happen, and it will at some point, there are generally 3 presenter personalities that appear:
1) The Stalwart
These are the sort of people you want in a crisis. Rather than consider the loss of those lovely slides as a problem they just shrug gallicly. ‘I hate PowerPoint anyway’ they say and get on with it.
The point is that if you can’t give your presentation solo, without any accompaniment, without a prop under which to hide, there’s something wrong. Yes, it’s nice to be able to emphasise your points with some nice graphics, but ultimately YOU are your most useful tool.
I once chaperoned an author on a speaking tour promoting an exam textbook. She had 5 talks back-to-back on day 1 and had prepared a series of slides to help convey her points. On arrival at the venue we discovered the projection system was out of order.
What to do?
Give the talk anyway, relying on her skill, knowledge, preparation and practice. She was brilliant, took it in her stride and, frankly, the sessions were all the better for it.
2) The Rabbit in headlights
This group do not take the news of their PowerPoint’s passing very well. Initially there is a fiddle at the back of the computer followed by yearning glances towards the screen and muttered apologies to the audience, ‘It was working this morning.’ To no avail.
If it’s at a conference this is closely followed by appeals to the sides and/or back of the room for assistance. Once it becomes clear that this is not going to work and after wasting 5 minutes trying to ‘reboot’ they try to continue. Unfortunately, the moment is lost and we are no longer in a presentation but witnessing the business equivalent of a comic dying. Lunch can’t come soon enough.
3) The Inbetweener
This group achieve the tricky task of combining the requisite amounts of pluck to get on with the job in hand with visible resentment that the gods have conspired against them. Life is soooo unfair, ‘I did have a great slide to illustrate this point, and the next one, but you’ll never witness any of that now, because SOMEONE, didn’t bring the right lead.’
These people are possibly worse than group 2, full of ‘Here’s what you would of won!’ Jim Bowen from Bullseye moments. They quickly drain the audience’s reservoir of sympathy and lose credibility.
So, how do we get to the stage where we can confidently ignore the SatNav and go straight on rather than turn left?
It’s all about knowing what you want to say, having a clear message, preparing thoroughly and practicing often. Oh, and not being dependent on technology.
Ultimately, knowing your stuff inside out helps bulletproof you against the unexpected. If you had some lovely pictures then paint them in words. If you had a nice graph with sales figures, get members of the audience who are different heights to represent the categories. Nice quote? Say it. Video clip. Role play it or skip it altogether. But, whatever you do, go straight on, don’t take the third exit… or perform a legal u-turn.
And, whatever you do, don’t say: “Can you hear me at the back?”
If you want to know more, you can always contact me directly on 01799 531642 or just email firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to help.