What To Do When Technology Fails You

pleasestandby

How many times have you seen it happen? You’re at a presentation and the PowerPoint doesn’t work. Or the projector doesn’t work. Or the wireless mike doesn’t work. Or the video doesn’t play. Or there’s feedback on the audio system.

Things happen. Sometimes there’s someone to blame. Sometimes there are equipment failures. Sometimes you didn’t bring the right connector. It doesn’t matter. Technology has failed. If it fails you, what can you do?

  1. Be cool. If your PowerPoint screws up, don’t worry. If your remarks are compelling enough, you probably don’t really need the PowerPoint. Rather than spend a huge portion of your allotted time trying to make it work, just deliver the presentation without it.
  2. Learn to project your voice. If you are going to speak before groups of people, you should be able to make yourself heard by the person sitting farthest away, without amplification. Not by yelling, but by talking louder and projecting.
  3. Video in a presentation is a tricky proposition even if everything works properly. Anything more than a short clip may get tedious for the audience in a hurry. But if you insist on including video in your presentation, be ready to describe the entire content of the video if it doesn’t play. That’s what TV newscasters have done for decades when the film, the tape or a live feed doesn’t work.
  4. Focus on your main message points and don’t let tech failure ruin your presentation. At a luncheon a few years ago, a St. Louis consultant to non-profits had colossal tech issues. The PowerPoint was too small to be seen, the video took a long time to load and then it was almost inaudible. But she struggled through. Her message—that the best way to communicate to donors is with stories about the people who’ve benefited from your services—came through loud and clear (despite her many tech problems).
  5. See #1. Be cool. At a PRSA/St. Louis luncheon a couple of years ago, right after the panel discussion began, the power went out. Curtains were opened to let in some light and the program continued. Without microphones, without amplification, without technology. The panelists spoke loud enough to be heard throughout the room and the program moved along without a hitch.

Technology is wonderful. But be prepared to make accommodations when technology fails.

(During Summer 2015 I have been revisiting some earlier posts. This one was originally shared on April 30, 2012. A new article will be posted on September 14.)

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