Did You Blow that Presentation?

Back Article May 26, 2017 By Tony Oliver

It happens. You try your best and prepare your hardest for a big presentation, but something goes awry. Nothing deflates your self-esteem faster than a missed opportunity. Disappointing as it may it be, remember everyone has off days — look at Adele during the Grammy Awards. Adding resilience to the mixture of talent, opportunity and luck tends to separate success from failure. Here are five ways to bounce back higher from a rough outing:

Don’t Wallow in Despair, but Acknowledge Shortcomings

It’s acceptable to lick your wounds; frankly, it’s advisable. But trying again without seeking to understand what caused failure in the first place is a sure-fire way to strike out once more. Look around and figure out what happened: Were you overconfident? Did you misunderstand the assignment? Be thorough without being brutal. “I sucked” offers no consolation or fix whereas “I didn’t prepare enough” provides a path for improvement.

Related: How to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking

Examine the Audience

Was it the one you expected? A successful presentation for one crowd may bomb with another. As the presenter, it is your responsibility to fine-tune your message and method. Explaining a marketing campaign to a group of accountants is very different than doing so to your sales force. To rock your next outing, seek criticism from those beyond your inner circle. Merely sharing your materials with your inner circle is not enough; they may not be the best critics. Go beyond those who know the topic — ask your spouse, children or even neighbors — and gauge their response. Were points and arguments as crisp as you thought they would be?

Were You Unnerved By a Hostile Attendee?

While hecklers are more typically found in the comedy clubs than in the office, occasionally you run across someone whose purpose is apparently to annoy. With some separation from the incident, evaluate how it unfolded. Was that person presenting a valid question? Did you fail to incorporate an assumption? Prepare for the unexpected by seeking a trusted colleague or friend to serve as a devil’s advocate during a trial run, to alert you of any blind spots you may have missed. (By the way, the phrase originates from the Catholic Church’s way to find weaknesses in a canonization argument. It has nothing to do with being a jerk for the sake of being one.)

Did the Projector/Microphone/Computer Malfunction?

We are often so dependent on technology, we feel we cannot function without it. However, a presentation can be effective using your words to paint a picture in the minds of the audience. Approach the situation like a conversation, rather than a pitch. Your speech and mannerisms will likely be more genuine and more memorable than anything you show on a PowerPoint slide (PowerPoint, by the way, was introduced in 1987. Viable presentations occurred prior to that momentous occasion.)

Did the Time Slot Change?

Back in school, teachers always treated the first volunteer more kindly than the successors. In real-life, we’re often told to avoid the dreaded after-lunch spot as food coma creeps over the audience. Your best-laid plans may go to waste, though, if an agenda item runs long and your time is crunched. For your next presentation, have a version of your speech prepared for half the allotted time, and one for double the allotted time. Often, this is as simple as expanding or dropping a few examples, but maintaining the core of your message.

Nelson Mandela said “I never lose; either I win or I learn.” Adopt this mantra soon you will find value in disappointment.