Managing Interruptions to Your Presentation – Talking in Public

Managing Interruptions to Your Presentation

Tap Tap Tap on the microphone….can you hear me….is this working???

When you have made very effort to be prepared for your presentation, how do you manage to remain professional and calm when the equipment fails or is not available?

Just like your presentation itself, you have to be prepared.

Practising your presentation with a microphone and other presentation aids is something I recommend BUT I also recommend you plan and prepare (and practise) to do the presentation without electronic aids as well.

Yes this means not relying on a Powerpoint/Keynote presentation to reinforce what you are saying. Yes, it means training your voice so you can project it to a room without shouting or using a microphone.

These situations might never happen, but if they do you can’t expect to have the presentation cancelled. The audience are still there, you are still there, so now you have to go to Plan B.

Plan B implies that you have planned for the “just in case” scenario so make sure this is the case. Don’t just tell yourself you will manage if it happens or that you will adjust your presentation according to what you think can be done at the time. Actually plan for it beforehand.

Plan B

Write two versions of your presentation and learn both. One where everything goes right and one for when the universe wants to test you!

If you were planning to use images on a big screen, paint word pictures instead. If you wanted to do comparisons of statistics, think of an analogy from real life and talk your audience through it so they can paint the picture (or make the comparisons) for themselves.

You might find that some of the “alternatives” are more appropriate for your presentation anyway!

What about interruptions?

These fall into two categories:

  1. Uncontrolled
  2. Predictable

The uncontrolled ones generally come from outside the presentation room – fire alarms, traffic etc. You can’t control these but you can have a way of addressing them to keep your audience listening to you and not being distracted or focusing on the external.

The easiest way is to call it for what it is. This tells your audience that you realise it is a distraction, there is nothing for them to do (unless it is an evacuation). Pause, look around the group and restart your presentation with a call to bring them back as well – “Let me take you back to where we were before this interruption…..”

The predictable ones are those that happen within your presentation area – latecomers, conversations, questions and those trying to leave early.

All of these can be addresssed and you should find methods with which you are comfortable. If you are distracted by latecomers or early leavers, make it clear to the organisers that no-one may be allowed in or out whilst you are presenting, put a sign on the door and have the organisers make an announcement before you begin. You are allowed to do this – you are in charge for the time they have allocated to your presentation.

One of my pet hates is the conversationalists. They start low enough but the murmur is distracting to everyone and often will elicit a “sshh” from someone sitting around them, then there is embarrassment and irritation which both take away from their attention on your presentation.

Take control.

I will stop what I am saying and look in the general area of the conversation and say “I’ll wait until you’ve finished your conversation so that everyone can hear what I am saying”. Sometimes I will smile to soften the effect but not very often!!!

Questions should be addressed at a time you have identified at the start of your presentation. If you have decided that you can handle them during the presentation, make sure you place a marker on where you are in the presentation so it is easy to return to it and not leave out any of your presentation.

When you decide to have questions at the conclusion of your presentation, have a couple you can ask yourself to get the flow going, make an effort to note the questions that are asked to help with your post presentation review – the questions may identify areas you could have included in the presentation.

The bottom line is to be prepared.

Think about everything that might happen and without making that a rod for your back by adding worries to your presentation nerves, think of ways you can comfortably overcome any of these obstacles.

Instructional presentations