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How to Deal with a Malfunction during a Speech

Learn what to do if something breaks or malfunctions during your speech from media coach TJ Walker in this Howcast public speaking video.


Is this micworking okay? What's wrong? Hey, can't you get me a decent mic? What do you do if you're giving a presentation and something breaks? There's a technical malfunction. There are few guarantees in life, but one thing I will guarantee you: if you give enough presentations, at some point something will go wrong technically. PowerPoint slides won't work, they'll be a freeze, bulbs will burn out in a projector, laptops power down. I've had that happen before. I forgot to plug in the laptop and in the middle of my presentation the battery power went out, everything goes dark. You can't solve the problem of technical malfunctions.

They're going to happen from time to time. The key is how you react to it. You can't let that be the dominant thing. You can't lose your cool. You can't say, 'Well that's it. Now I'm not giving my PowerPoint presentation.' You've got to realize that the real focus is the expertise you have, the information you have, how can you share that with your audience? So if halfway through your PowerPoint, the bulb burns out, there's no more PowerPoint, you've got to get to the point where you couldn't care less. You're going to continue giving your presentation, telling people the ideas, giving examples, giving case studies. There's no longer images? No problem. You've got the ideas right here that you can share with them. Now, not all technical problems are the same. If you're in front of a thousand people and your microphone breaks and you realize nobody can hear you past the first row, that's obviously a problem. You can't simply ignore that. At that point, if you're at a large conference, there's probably going to be some technical person.

What I would do at that point is just turn to the side and say, 'Can anyone help me find a replacement microphone?' It may be a minute before another one comes, but the key is you need to act relaxed, act comfortable, act like you're having a good time. You don't want to seem angry, upset, nervous, uncomfortable, because that will be the most memorable thing people have of your presentation. You want their memories to be focused on your ideas. If you've got the information you need and you've got a way of explaining it, giving examples, giving case studies, then, whether your computer breaks, the laptop freezes, the projector burns out, it won't matter. You'll still give a great presentation.

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