Plan B: How to Shine When Technology Fails You

Wouldn’t it be great if our presentations always went as planned?  In the world of business, however, plans can change and things can go wrong: our time can be cut short, technology can fail, and we can be asked to provide a summary to the big decision maker when we least expect it.  If you have worked in business for even a short amount of time, you have probably encountered at least one of these scenarios.

As with most things in life, we can’t control everything as it relates to delivering our presentations.  But what we can control is how we respond; and having a solid Plan B is what helps us to respond with confidence—even when technology fails us.  That’s what this month’s tip is all about.

Keep Cool

Projectors — Teleprompters — Thumb-Drives. Technology is a beautiful thing and can make our presentations a breeze—when it works.  When a bulb, batteries, or your PowerPoint dies in the middle of a presentation, don’t panic.  Remember that people don’t buy ideas or products from PowerPoint slides.  People are persuaded by real people.  If technology fails don’t draw attention to the problem or make a big deal out of it.  Just keep going and think conversation.  If you stay cool, your audience will stay engaged.

Master “Low-Tech” Visual Aids

It’s easy to hide behind a bunch of PowerPoint slides; but seamlessly using a white board or flip chart to guide your audience through your talk demonstrates that you really know your stuff.  If you have a high-stakes presentation coming up, prepare for the unexpected by having a flip chart and markers near by.

Bring Hard Copies

It never hurts to bring a hard copy of your slides printed 6 on a page for a quick cheat sheet if needed.  If any reference material would be helpful for your audience, bring a copy of that as well.  Now you have all your bases covered.

Prioritize When Time is Cut Short

We’ve all been there. We prepare for a 45-minute presentation, but time is running short.  Our presentation slot is now 10 minutes.  What do most presenters do when that happens? They speak faster, of course… and the clarity of their message is compromised.

A better Plan B strategy?  Keep your story-like structure but focus on 2-3 of the most important points within the body of your message. Then deliver those few points with impact and clarity. If the audience needs more information, they will either grant you more time or ask you to come back and deliver additional details.  Never let the clock compromise impact and clarity.

Always Be Ready to Speak on the Fly

You are outside the board room.  You are presenting next.  You are thrilled that you finally get to  pitch your idea to the president and his executive staff.  The door opens.  The president walks out to shake your hand and proceeds to say, “I need to run to another meeting.  I am sorry to miss your presentation.  Can you give me a quick summary?”

Not all is lost—if you have prepared for these types of occasions.

Speaking on the fly is not as daunting a task as you may think, when you’ve prepared.  All you have to do is remember two things: Core Message and Structure.  Have your one key message and a concise open, body and close and you will be sure to shine.

You may never have to use your Plan B, but by having one at the ready, you can be confident no matter what happens.  That is the mark of a presenter who is always prepared to connect with their audience.  Be one of them!

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