In a perfect world your presentation would go off without a hitch. But the reality is, you’re usually faced with clanging dishes in the back room if you are at a hotel, or people coming in and out if you are at a large convention. You most likely will have an unexpected problem, so don’t be surprised by it.
I’ve seen too many presenters allow these things to take over their presentation. I have seen presenters point to people who are late and say, “Well, we are so glad you could join us today. Please come on down and have a seat right here in front.” I’ve actually seen a speaker say, when a person got up to leave in the middle of a program, “Excuse me, excuse me, where are you going? Am I really that bad?” At this point, over half the audience is thinking, “Yes, you are that bad because you just embarrassed that person, and if you did that to me, I would die of embarrassment.”
No matter how funny you try to be with this, it never plays out well.
Instead, roll with the situation. If the bulb burns out in your projector, let the audience know that you will try to explain things as clearly as possible. Don’t refer to what would have been on your slides; instead, paint a visual picture of what you are talking about. You might say something like, “Well, we’re all here today to find out how we can improve our sales. I realize the bulb is burned out, but we have plenty of bright bulbs in our group today, so let’s move forward together without the slides. I may have to stop and explain some complex things that were in the slides in order to make it as clear as possible for you. If at any point anything I say seems confusing, stop me, and I will try to paint a visual picture so it makes sense. Let’s get started.”
Whatever you do, don’t apologize for a problem or an interruption. There is nothing more annoying than a presenter that is constantly apologizing. You are a professional and therefore you should be prepared to deal with problems and issues as they occur.
That doesn’t mean you ignore the problem. It means that you focus the audience on the solution that you are providing.
If you focus on apologizing, you’re basically telling your audience that you cannot perform unless you’re under the absolute best conditions. And let’s face it, if you’re in the front of the room, you should perform like an Olympic athlete at her best, no matter what the conditions.