Keeping cool when technology lets you down

Technology is not a faithful friend – What do you do when technology lets you down

Technology is the lazy presenter’s crutch. Good presenters are able to survive and win even when technology goes AWOL. When I was A Conservative Party Association Chairman I attended a National Convention meeting of the great, the good and the pompous at the Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool. Stephen Gilbert, who now works in No. 10 and who probably hasn’t had a holiday since May 5 2010, was set to give a presentation in huge theatre to an audience of around 1000 “senior party activists” – an audience not famous for being forgiving or understanding.

He was presenting data, polling, statistics and strategy. Powerpoint was poised to help and underpin his presentation. I was quite far back in this huge room full of harumph-ready impatience so I couldn’t see whether the guilty piece of technology was the projector or the laptop. But something failed, the title slide disappeared and Stephen was in the middle of the stage in front of an audience of 1000 diverging opinions. He was armed with a handful of papers.

He didn’t skip a (visible) beat. He didn’t lean over the laptop and mutter. He didn’t apologise for the problem or make a joke about technology. Hardly appearing to ever refer to his notes he started his presentation with just his voice and what was in his head.  He spoke fluently and at length to the audience – brushing off the technology betrayal with impressive nonchalance. After the presentation everybody was speaking about what he wanted them to speak about – the technology failure was forgotten. Perfect result.

How did his presentation survive the technology failure?

I have never spoken to him about it. But he survived and won because he knew his stuff backwards. Most presenters would have crashed and burned – and then blamed or tried to kill the IT guy instead of blaming themselves for lack of preparation.

Stephen knew his message, the data, the strategy, the polls. You could almost argue that he was more fluent without the Powerpoint as some visual aids confuse rather than aid.

This video is quite fun – it is a Fox News weather man living the advice of “just keep going and don’t panic when things go wrong.”

P.S. I wrote for @CityAM on which visual aids you could, or should, use in speeches and presentation. You can read the article here.

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