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3 Tips for Handling Unexpected Events During Presentations

July 13, 2015 / Blog establishing presentation credibility, first impressions, presentation mistakes, Rick Enrico, SlideGenius, unexpected events

In spite of preparing for your presentation, unexpected events can still break your concentration. According to the often-quoted Murphy’s Law, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”

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Some presenters panic when something wrong happens, making them lose their audience. If these mistakes are left unaddressed, your discussion can turn into a complete disaster.

Avoid tuning out the crowd and maintain your professional image with these three tips:

Stay Calm

Mistakes are bound to happen, even in the presentation world. In the case of unexpected slip-ups, panicking only clouds your judgment and impairs your insight. You may try to remedy your mistake by doing everything at once, or apologizing to the audience, but before you do that, step back from your thoughts and rationalize the situation.

Keep your composure. The show must go on. Don’t lose your credibility by responding poorly to unpredictable mishaps.

If you accidentally tripped while walking, maintain your poise and continue discussing your topic. It’s natural that some of your audience will laugh at you, but if they see you recover quickly without being bothered by it, they’ll soon forget it ever happened.

Avoid giving negative reactions like frowning, walking out of the room, or gesturing uneasily. In cases like these, having a neutral expression will help mask any feelings of anxiety or inadequacy that might be controlling your actions and emotions.

Come Prepared

Flash drives may flounder, batteries may drain, and files may get corrupted. Impress your audience by solving these uncontrollable crises with enthusiasm. Add a dash of humor related to your pitch to engage the audience and buy yourself some time to think up of what to do next when something goes wrong.

A sour attitude will only worsen things. Admit to yourself that there are some circumstances that will always be out of your control. But even though you accept this fact, try to minimize inevitable mishaps as much as possible.

Have a backup plan to address the problem in case it comes up. Bring a spare flash drive, pack extra batteries, and keep duplicate copies of your files. What else are cloud-based drives for?

Don’t Dwell on the Problem

Pointing fingers to who or what caused the problem won’t get you anywhere. Stay professional and focus on solving it. Provide an immediate solution along with a composed response and anticipate your listeners’ behavior.

While you won’t want to be too pessimistic about how things will turn out, or how people will react, you need to prepare yourself both emotionally and mentally for any backlash that a presentation snafu might bring. Strengthening yourself against unfavorable responses and situations will help you decide with a clearer perspective on things.

Instead of getting angry or feeling guilty, go back to building your pitch by affirming your message. The way you handle yourself on stage in the face of such challenges will boost your speaking credibility.


Whether you’re delivering a big sales pitch or a start-up presentation, it’s your responsibility to own every good or bad of it. Handle the unexpected circumstances with professionalism by following these three tips.

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10 Ways to Make a Positive First Impression during Presentations.” SlideGenius, Inc. 2014. Accessed July 13, 2015.
Murphy’s Law.” Freie Universitat Berlin. Accessed July 13, 2015.


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