What To Do When Something Goes Wrong In Your Presentation

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

slistening to female coach giving presentation on flipchartMany of us have been there.

The presentation is going well, the customer is appreciating all our demonstrations, your ideas are being well-received…

Then….Wham! Something goes wrong!

The laptop freezes. The demonstration falls apart. A member of the buyer team asks a question that you can’t answer.

Whatever it is, it throws a spanner in the works and you struggle to cope. What can you do to save the day? Can you still act with confidence in these sorts of situations?

I had this situation when I was presenting to a prospective client a few years ago, and it wasn’t funny. The slides had been playing up for some reason, and at a strategic point in the discussions, everything froze. Nothing I did worked. I had no option but to turn the computer off at the power switch.

It wasn’t the death nell in the whole presentation, but my slides had facts and figures on them that would have proved beneficial for the prospect to see.

I asked for a minute or two to reboot and get my slides back on board. Some small talk followed, and I admit to being very embarrassed for myself and the prospect’s team.

Nevertheless, I remained cool and calm, and got back to my slides within about three minutes. If I had not been professional about it, it may have cost us the business. Instead, I applied the model I outline below, and it put me in good stead.

You may have heard of the ‘crises create opportunities’ theory, and these tips will help us achieve our goals whenever something untoward happens during your presentation, like it did with mine.

1) Don’t ignore the situation

Take complete ownership and responsibility for the situation. Don’t pretend it actually isn’t happening. Be assertive in dealing with the ‘crisis’.
Something like, ‘It appears that my laptop has frozen. Now, it may take me a couple of minutes to rectify this, so shall we take a very short break while I fix this, and then we can come back where we left off’

2) Maintain your poise.

A smile always can diffuse a situation, as it determines the human contact between a group of people. Three things you should remember at this stage:

a) Do not become verbally flustered
b) Don’t show expressions of anger, annoyance or frustration
c) Don’t become a blame-thrower (at others or the equipment)

Instead, show composure and work towards a solution rather than giving people reason to think you are unprofessional.

3) Show the humorous side of a situation.

This doesn’t mean being flippant or glib. It simply means noting that humour can diffuse a frustrating situation. You can make a serious situation a little lighter by a self-effacing joke or some simple laughter.

People will realise that it’s not your fault if something goes wrong (unless it’s poor preparation, of course!) so they may well have some fellow-feeling for you. Maintain your professionalism and treat the situation as if you have full control over it.

I was able to carry out these three ideas in the slide presentation that went wrong earlier, and we ended up working with the prospect on a large project. Maintain your poise and you should be able not save the day as well.

Want to learn more? Then take a look at our Sales Presentation Skills Webinar

Happy Selling!


Sean McPheat

Sean McPheat
Managing Director

MTD Sales Training | Image courtesy of Big Stock Photo

Sales DNA

Originally published: 27 August, 2019

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