Blank-ScreenFacilitating a small client strategic planning session, I copied the PowerPoint to accompany the session on a USB drive. When I arrived at the session to load the needed files on my laptop, it turned out I had only copied a shortcut. There were no files to be found on the USB drive, which meant no PowerPoint for the strategic planning session.

While I hadn’t planned to do the session without PowerPoint, the smallish room I knew we’d be in actually meant things worked very well without the PowerPoint. But it worked because I had scouted the room in advance, devised alternatives, and prepared redundancies beforehand.

7 Steps to Be Ready to Present When Your PowerPoint Fails

When you find yourself in a comparable presentation situation, are you ready with redundancies? Here are seven steps you can take to be ready when the PowerPoint doesn’t work out:

  1. Have your slides printed out in a format that allows you to easily use them for visual cues
  2. Put a copy of the presentation in the cloud
  3. Confirm you have a copy of the presentation on a portable drive (and, as I learned, leave yourself time to double check this)
  4. Have handouts for any in-depth information participants will need to see to interact and clearly understand your content
  5. Have such a deep command of the material that you can present without any visuals or prompts
  6. Write an outline of the key topic areas beforehand and be ready to present from it
  7. Use a flip chart to outline key presentation points and graphics

Yes, it’s more work to be doubly or triply prepared, but doing so allows you the flexibility to deliver for your audience just as you have promised, even if it’s not how you originally planned.

What do you do to avoid presentation meltdowns? – Mike Brown


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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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5 Responses to “7 Steps to Be Ready to Present When Your PowerPoint Fails”

  1. Mike Brown says:

    From Shari Wilson:

    Hi Mike,

    I try to do most of the things you recommend when giving a presentation, especially if it’s in another country where technology may or may not exist or be compatible. Another thing I do, whenever possible, is send a copy of the presentation to my host or contact in advance, so they can try it out on their technology and let me know if it will work. This has saved me many times–but also means no last minute tinkering, or at least not too much; which has the added advantage of less stress because my work is done ahead of time.



  2. Mike Brown says:

    A few comments and great insights from Facebook:

    Tony Vengrove: #5 is a key one!

    Jeffrey C. Brull: There is no substitute for good ol’ preparation and knowing your audience and material. When you walk in knowing who and what with confidence, it’s easy to go “off script” if necessary.

    Roger Garvert: Mike, I look back at the best presentations I have done and they were actually on a whiteboard with no ppt. But, my presentations are very technical in nature. The advantage of no ppt is that you are focused on what the customer wants. You can still get your own message across, but with no viewgraphs your message is more easily disguised, and does not appear as if it is hype.

  3. Marcin @ infoDiagram says:

    Nice post. I completely did not think about analog options like printing slides 🙂
    I would add few points to reduce risk going analog anyway:
    1. save your presentation in multiple formats (ppt, pptx and pdf) in case you will need to use different machine to present.

    2. Have a set of cables to connect to projector: VGA, HDMI and display port are the most common.

    • Mike Brown says:

      Great additions, Marcin. a few years ago, I’d have added “have your own projector,” but those seem to have become more predictable and available the last few years.


  1. 7 Steps to Be Ready to Present When Your PowerP... - May 27, 2015

    […] When you find yourself in a comparable presentation situation, are you ready with redundancies? Here are seven steps you can take to be ready when the PowerPoint doesn’t work out:  […]