Wednesday, September 28

Every Presenter's Nightmare

I guess I should consider myself lucky that I lasted all these years without it ever happening to me.  But yesterday it did.  The moment I have dreaded for years ... the moment that all public speakers dread.

I was speaking at the MDPA marketing conference just outside Washington, DC ... talking about the evolution of social media especially as it relates to wellness.  The MC of the conference makes a very articulate introduction for me and I confidently walk up onto stage.  I say "Good Morning" with all the gusto I've got and hit the button to advance the next slide ...

Nothing happens.

I click again, I point it at the screen, I click again ...  Nothing happens.  Thinking that maybe something will save me I click again ... Nothing happens.

I decide to give an intro to the slides while the IT folks figure out what's going on -- to buy myself some time ...  Nothing happens.

By the look on the IT guy's face, I quickly realize that I am hanging out there on my own.  Forty-five minutes of content and I've got no slides.  So I just start talking ... and something really cool happens.

I connect with the audience!

I pretty succinctly convey the message I want to make without a single slide.  I proceed to tell a story of what I want people to hear from me.  I put all my attention into the audience, rather than on the slides.  And although I may not have hit every bullet point from every slide, I certainly did deliver the message.  And because everyone felt so bad for me (and afraid for when it's their turn), they actually paid attention.  Nothing like sympathy to draw in a crowd!!

What a concept.  A story that people paid attention to ... at a marketing conference!  I got pushed out of "slide land" and was forced just to talk and to tell a story.  And by the sound of all the Q&A that happened afterwards, I'd say it went really well.  Without a single slide.

Five lessons learned from this "experience":
- Be prepared for the worst case scenario ... always
- Tell a story ... in the moment
- Pay attention to your audience ... and they will pay attention to you
- Give 'em just enough content to spark engagement ... and they will ask questions
- Smile the whole time :) ... and they will smile back!!

Now that was an experience!!  Ever happen to you?  Jim.

Jim Joseph
President of Lippe Taylor
Author of The Experience Effect


  1. Here's a link to my comparable experience, Jim:

    It caused me to try and prepare not only for the worst case scenario, but for a nuclear explosion to be taking place during the worst case scenario!

    Congratulations to you for handling your worst case so well!

  2. Jim - you've got SUCH passion and excitement when you present, I'm certain it was just fabulous. I think Powerpoint has become SO over rated! It is used as a crutch instead of an accessory to a presentation.
    WAY TO GO!!!

  3. Just saw your post, Mike. Yup, you've been there too! And thanks LB, appreciate that so much! Jim.

  4. Jim, I am sure this comes down to you knowing your "stuff."

    But I think it makes a good point about PowerPoint. Our industry has become too reliant on PPT. While I understand it can help make strategy and the overall plan more tangible, it sometimes can take away from our ability to be natural in what we are delivering. Whenever I had to present as part of a bigger group, I always wanted to write my own slides. This way I knew the content in much deeper manner than if I had just had the opportunity to review.

    There's also something to be said about the adrenaline rush of the moment. You can train and prepare, but the limits aren't pushed until you are faced with the actual event.

  5. As someone who was present in the audience yesterday during your "nightmare" turned "nirvana" moment, I wanted to reaffirm that you left a lasting impression not because of the missing slides, but the insightful and engaging message you conveyed and your calm, cool, collected charm. So much so that when I returned home to PA this evening I googled you for more. Well played.

  6. wow, that last comment from anonymous- what a great compliment, have to agree with it. Therefore, it wasn't a nightmare it was an opportunity where you can share your passion for spreading the knowledge about a topic and then it becomes the fuel that will power you. You created an audience that shares your passion and you've got a much better chance of connecting. slides just simply can't do that. Svetlana

  7. That's a wow, thanks so much for that gift. Truly a gift and I appreciate it. Jim.

  8. To be honest - I would not know how to react in situation like that. The phrase "we are experiencing technical difficulties" would be said by default.

    I would probably empathize with the audience, feel them out, and try to put humour into my unfortunate mishap.

    Curious - do you offer power presentation classes or public speaking?


  9. Jim,

    As a member of the audience--you rocked!! I wish I would have had the chance to introduce myself (we went back and forth on Twitter..@ESMMWeighLess)because I was so intrigued by everything you had to say! As the anonymous mentioned, I have been Google-ing trying to find more info and look forward to reading your book! Thanks again for the great information!


  10. Hey Jamie ... nice to "meet" you! You and I were all over #mdpa (always like to see who is live tweeting). Thanks so much for the kind words. Hope to see you soon. Jim

  11. Great post, Jim. Too often continuously checking our slides breaks the flow of feeling and true passion that's coming from within!

  12. Jim, I wish I could have been there to see your fantastic speech. Sometimes a PPT with too many animations and effects downgrades the whole presentation. Anyway congratulations for your successful speech!


  13. It's so funny ... how the overuse of visuals and animations can actually hinder the presenter. It's a learning journey for sure. Jim.

  14. Wow...presenting is my biggest nemesis...although I've participated in Toastmasters and successfully completed their leadership course, i still have anxiety about it...however, thanks for sharing your gives me pointers to keep in mind should I ever face a similar situation...I agree that we have become completely addicted to slides & have lost the touch of connecting with the audience. One thing I've come to realize is that I am more at ease if performing a Q&A to a room full of people versus presenting from thanks for sharing

  15. Hey Mizanne -- great having you in class!! Keep in touch. JIM