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When Powerpoint Attacks: 6 survival tips

pptattacks

If you forced me to rank the places where I would most prefer not to look like an idiot, the Harvard Kennedy School would come in fourth.   Or maybe sixth.  Some of history’s most eminent figures have spoken there, like Jack Donaghy.
But even after a successful tech-check before the presentation, things can go terribly wrong.  Especially if you’ve embedded videos into a powerpoint presentation.

I was attempting to show two commercials, but another video popped up, and what’s worse, the audio was out of synch with the video.  But here’s what I’ve learned:

1)    Take a deep breath and relax.  You’re still in control of how you respond.  One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from a decade of standup comedy is that audiences are incredibly empathetic.   If you’re having a good time, they are.  If you’re stressed out, they are.  Audiences want you to be successful.   It’s important that you understand and remind yourself that they are rooting for you.

2)    Bring backup.  I always carry a copy of my presentation on a USB stick and load the file on a backup presentation computer if available — the AV folks usually have one.

3)  Bring a short 3-4 minute video about your topic on a DVD.  Give it to the AV folks during the tech run-through.  If there is a problem, they can play your video to give the audience something to watch other than you sweating, while the tech folks are resolving the issue.

4) Take an improv class.  You may have to do it on a dare.  I came very close to running out of my first improv class in 1998 at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade theater.  It was scary to get through, but has changed my life.  Give it a shot.

5) Have an alternative slide-free version of your story ready to tell.  It’s important to be ready to present a compelling case without powerpoint slides, as I sometimes have to do when negotiating with my wife.  Hard to believe but history has witnessed a few speeches that went pretty well without foils and an overhead projector:  the Gettysburg Address, the Sermon on the Mount and King Henry V’s Crispian Day speech.  To be fair, one of those speakers relied on 3×5 index cards and was a fictional character.

6)    Get a Mac.

Mr. Bartley’s @ Harvard Square

When you’re at Harvard, you have to make smart decisions, and mine was to never again order a cheeseburger with barbecue sauce.  I arrived at that decision after eating at Mr. Bartley’s, a venue the Boston Herald describes as “Boston’s best burger, in cheerfully, post-hippie dorm surroundings.”   I got into the barbecue sauce-on-cheeseburger habit back in my high school days, ordering the Rojo Burger at Chili’s.  I thought it was a classy move, but not everyone agreed, including my prom date. (btw, “Rojo” is the Spanish word for “impossible to get out of Taffeta”).

Bartley's Harvard Square

This place has a fun student vibe,  and I kept thinking I’d see Will Hunting sitting in the corner solving word problems.

Bartley's

I was on campus to speak about using comedy in social media to help put a face on the corporation.  Below is a short clip of my PowerPoint disaster.  And check our this review of Bartley’s from Billy Idol:

Yelp gives it 4.5 stars

Mr. Bartley’s

1246 Massachusetts Ave

Cambridge, MA

(617) 354-6559
About the Cheeseburger & Comedy series.

The Business Case for Nonsense

I went to Harvard Business School.

But it was only for one evening.  Last Thursday, I was invited to present a case study on using comedy in corporate YouTube videos, and shared “Mainframe: The Art of the Sale.”  This video series we published in August 2006 continues to be discussed, simply because it’s funny.  It’s listed as a case study in the second edition of bestseller  The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott, published this month.  (Congrats, David!)

Comedy done well has the power to cut through clutter and to influence, and that’s helped me get an honorable mention on Click-Z’s Social Media All-Stars list.  My thanks to Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics.

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Here’s my presentation:The Business Case for Nonsense: IBM Social Media

View more presentations from Tim Washer.