November 14th, 2015 Richard Mulholland

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Picture the scene, it’s 2005 in Oxford, England. The stage is TED Global. I am one of 6 people selected to do a 3-minute talk. My subject is First Impressions Lie (I’d prepared it as a counterpoint to Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink” as he was scheduled to speak there, too).

All too soon I hear Chris Anderson call my name. I walk up there in my shorts and t-shirt (contrarian much?) and get ready to start. My Mac was set up behind me during the break, everything was ready to go, so I started to speak. All was great for the first thirty seconds, I made a joke, I got some laughter, I advanced a few slides… and then it happened.

My Mac froze.
When I had only three minutes.

“Holy Effing Shiaaat!”

I glanced over at Chris Anderson. He stared back blankly. “Keep going buddy” was the unsaid command.

As luck would have it, my Mac had frozen on a graph that I needed to build. So, running around like a mad man, and using my hands in a way that would have made the dancers in the “Walk like an Egyptian” music video proud – I soldiered on.

Finally I was done. People clapped, Seth Godin whooped (I know it was him because he came up to me afterwards and said “Did you hear me ‘Whoop’?”), and I left the stage. My debut on the main stage of TED was over.

So what’s my point?

It’s that slideless or not, I made it. Sure it wasn’t ideal, and it certainly wasn’t my proudest moment. But Murphy threw his law book right at my junk and I managed to hold it together. That’s why rule five above is so crucial…

Your slide deck is not your presentation, you are. And while I’m certainly a proponent of the idea that visual aids can help you deliver a message and your audience to remember it, I equally believe that they can sometimes act as a speaker’s crutch – and if you lose that crutch, you collapse (along with your entire preso).

You can’t let that happen.

This is why so much of our training is spent on getting speakers comfortable with their content. However, whether you’re trained or not, you can get through it with simple practice. Here’s a tip, practice your preso without your slides, this will help you tonnes, even if your tech doesn’t go belly-up.

Remember, the presentation is the stuff that comes out of your mouth – not the projector. Prepare accordingly.

Posted by Richard Mulholland

A motorbike riding, boardgame playing, punk rocking, kung-fu fighting, kettlebell swinging, business running, microphone abusing inked-ellectual gentleman. And Missing Link founder.

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