Many years ago I gave my first presentation in front of an audience. How many years ago was it? It was so many years ago that I was using an overhead projector to show my notes on a screen! For those of you who don’t remember the overhead projector, you would write notes on transparent sheets that were like plastic. They were actually polyester film with a clear microporous topcoat specifically designed for use in creating screen positives and negatives with dye or pigment ink!
I had all of my sheets with my pre-written notes on them in an organized stack next to the overhead projector ready to give my presentation.
This being my first presentation I was very nervous and was relying greatly on my notes to get me through the presentation.
Looking out at the crowd I noticed all these people looking straight at me. It seemed like thousands although it was probably less than 50. Regardless, it was very stressful.
I started with my presentation. Everything was going very well and I was beginning to feel less stressed.
Just when I began to relax…I accidentally knocked over my full glass of water all over my stack of transparencies!
The thing about spilling water on transparencies is that the water smears the writing on the sheets so they are illegible!
Well, I’m freaking out! All of the stress is back and much, much more!
The room went silent and it seemed like an eternity being in that stressful situation. I didn’t move and didn’t speak, I just froze!
The person that was hosting the presentations (I was one of three speakers) could see I was freaking out and he came to the rescue!
He said in a very loud voice…”So Nigel, I guess we are going to get the watered down version!”
Well everyone in the room laughed and the energy in the room lightened up and so did I. I was able to get through the rest of the presentation because I was not taking it so seriously and the audience was pulling for me.
I learned a lot about the Perils of Presentations that day. Like not to take everything so seriously and engage with the audience, and use humor as much as possible.
I still use those things I learned that day in my presentations. Just a few years ago I had written up a great handout and was going to use that as the worksheet for the audience to interact with me as I presented. The whole speech was predicated on this handout. When I arrived at the location, there was no electricity and therefore no lights. The audience couldn’t even see the handout! Oh, the Perils of Presentations! I remembered the transparencies and got through it just fine!