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What to do when technology fails

Fear Factor: What to do when the “worst-case scenario” happens.

By Ashley Denuzzo

It’s a tale as old as time. The definition of a “love/hate relationship.” One minute technology has the coolest gadgets and gizmos that add value to your presentation. The next minute, something glitches, is uninstalled, doesn’t open, can’t connect to the WiFi; the list goes on and on.

Ugh, the frustration.

You need to be prepared in case your technology doesn’t work. Yes, it is disappointing that something you relied on to really “wow” your audience failed, but it happens. That’s life. The key is to not let your presentation rely solely on technology. You can still engage and impress your audience without a screen or video. It just takes a few back-up plans.

Don’t Even Bother With Slides

Technology is not your presentation – you are! Your visuals should support and clarify what you are saying, not educate your audience for you. Keep text to a minimum and only use images to support your argument (graphs, photos, charts, etc.)

Use slides sparingly; this way if your technology fails, you aren’t reliant on your slide deck. If you want to engage with your audience, you can use flip charts to record questions, thoughts and ideas. You can also ask your audience questions and quizzes and conduct polls.

Have Print Outs or Workbooks Ready

Give participants some kind of handout or takeaway with copies of your major slides or something that relates back to your presentation. Ideally, distribute it at or near the end of your presentation, but if you have a technical problem, allow members to refer to it during your talk.

Take a Quick Break or Create Group Work

 If you have the time, take 5-10 minutes for a quick “coffee break” with your audience to see if you can fix the glitch.

You can also take the opportunity to have your audience engage in group work. Have them turn to the person next to them or chat at their table about something related to your presentation. For example, if your presentation is about Loss Prevention in Retail, have your audience discuss for 5 minutes different methods to reduce theft in stores.

No matter how much you practice and prepare, things will go wrong on occasion. When they do, don’t panic! Seize the opportunity to help everyone feel more comfortable. It’s not the problem that counts, it’s how you handle yourself.

And hey, there’s always an opportunity to make your audience laugh by acknowledging the issue and making a quick joke about it.


We’ve all been there. Countless hours working on a presentation seems wasted when something glitches or goes horribly wrong. Maybe your slideshow decided to become corrupt overnight, or your audience cares more about what’s on their phone than what’s on your PowerPoint; or that dreaded anxiety has resurfaced and now your stomach is in knots.

 Whatever your “worst-case scenario” is, we want to help you find a light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve composed a three-part blog series that looks at common presentation flubs and how to overcome those hurdles. You can’t control everything, but you can control how you react and respond when things go awry. And at the end of the day, your audience wants to remember you – not what happens to you.

This is the third article of a three-part blog series. Read Part One: When your Audience Isn’t Engaged or Part Two: When Your Nervousness Takes Over. 

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