Presentation Disasters Happen All The Time

There’s an old saying that goes: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Translation: I don’t care who you are or how much planning you’ve put into something, stuff goes wrong. That goes for presentations, too. Presentation disasters happen every day.

Equipment malfunctions.

Notes get lost.

Things get changed.

Having a presentation contingency plan just in case things don’t go as you planned does more than just save your skin when you’re forced to abandon your original presentation design. Knowing what to do when things go wrong will help you feel more confident heading in, too. Do you plan for a presentation disaster?

Your Presentation Contingency Plan

Of course, no one can plan for every possible scenario; life is unpredictable. But you can plan for things that realistically could happen, like a power outage, an equipment breakdown, or a surprise question from the audience. “The show must go on,” as they say. Could you move forward with your presentation if any (or all!) of these things happened? You wouldn’t miss a beat if you had a presentation contingency plan in place.

But first things first: Let’s figure out what’s the worst that could happen? Grab a pen and a piece of paper and list every presentation diaster you can think of. Then pick three (realistic) scenarios that would throw a wrench into your presentation. Is it equipment failure? A heckler? A joke that falls flat? Come up with a presentation contingency plan for each of those three catastrophes. Being prepared is the Number 1 way to calm your public speaking nerves, and the truth is most people are not afraid of public speaking, they’re afraid of being humiliated. When you minimize the chance of that by being fully prepared—for what will happen or what could happen—your confidence is automatically lifted.

Expect The Unexpected?

I know you’re probably thinking, “So what do I do when the totally unexpected happens?” Well, if it’s something completely unexpected, you’ll probably react instinctively. If the building you’re presenting in suddenly catches fire, for example, I’d expect you would flee the building. Like I said, life is unpredictable and it’s impossible to have a contingency plan for every possible scenario. But you can be prepared by knowing how to respond coolly and sensibly. Handling a situation with grace will further demonstrate your professionalism and position as an expert, so make being calm part of any Plan B.

Knowing what to do when things go wrong is an important part of presentation planning because, sooner or later, something will go wrong. It’s up to you to decide if you’ll let that “something” turn your presentation into a disaster or if you’ll be ready with a presentation contingency plan to come out looking like a pro.

Have you ever been stuck without a contingency plan? Tell us the story in the comment section and share this post if you found value in it!


  1. Brenda Cary says:

    I always try to expect the unexpected. I attended one of your workshops last year and since then Ive become a much better communicator. Knowing how to practice and get ready for my presentations has taken all the stress that used to eat me up inside.

  2. I can relate to that one. Sometimes its hard to think about a plan B when im so busy but its worth it.

  3. yep, Ive had plenty of presentation disasters that I didn’t prepare for initially.

  4. Having that plan B is crucial. I have realized that things do not always pan out the way I planned. I am now much more equipped with tools to handle almost any unexpected situation, and I do not take any presenting situation for granted.

  5. That plan B is crucial. I now try very hard to be equipped with the tools to handle any unexpected situation. I do not take any presenting situation for granted.

  6. I think that it’s important to remember to stay calm when things go wrong and always to expect the unexpected.

  7. My bigger issue always was gadget malfunction (or lack of knowledge in such matters). So with the help of IT department everybody had to learn how to use projectors, software, etc. REgarding my notes, I have always back ups.

  8. Luckily, I haven’t had any disasters.
    But after reading this post, I think I’ll prepare for the worst-case scenario.
    It’s always better to prepare rather than standing there blank.

  9. Prep prep prep I have always heard.

  10. Cary Wittleman says:

    I have our managers do their presentations with and without PowerPoint so when our equipment doesn’t work they can still deliver the message instead of running out of the room. Good Advice

  11. Marshall Smith says:

    Too many times

  12. Maureen Kauper says:

    Plan A ususally doesnt work out like I plan. I need to always have a backup plan moving forward. Thanks for the reminder!

  13. Anita Ayela says:

    It felt as if the author has read my mind. Gosh, these disasters do happen and they are sure embarrassing, indeed!

  14. Mike Rickard says:

    I agree. Preparation is key to any effective presentation. You should know your subject inside and out in case of off-the-wall questions. As mentioned, you also need to be ready for technology glitches. Your TED Talk might be fantastic but if the AV is out for whatever reason, you may have to forego visuals. I do presentations in college and bring extra copies of my media. I also check with the school’s AV department before I go there to make sure my media works.

  15. I had my first presentation earlier this month and I completely bombed it. It was bad. I had nothing planned for it and I ended up having to step down and let someone else take over. It was embarrassing. I had been working at the same place for 5 years now and the newer guy did better than me. This is excellent advice. I should have been more prepared.

  16. Coleen Hays says:

    Working on Plan B now!

  17. Adam Best says:

    Ahh yes, Plan B. That would save so many presentations from the disaster they are. They need to have another presentation option ready when what they planned doesn’t work out.

  18. Maria Arnold says:

    The best way to prepare for a presentation is to prepare for the unexpected and expect the best. This post just resonates this fact. your efforts in making people better communicators is highly appreciated.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *