Imagine you are in front of 700 people, you have been billed as the ‘headliner’ of the conference and your slides just aren’t displaying, no matter what you try.  Pretty stressful, right? Well that actually happened at the Society of Pharmaceutical and Biotech Trainers Annual Meeting, but rather than floundering and giving up, as some may have done, this presenter demonstrated amazing grace under fire.

We attended the SPBT 2014 to announce a new product that we have been integrating into our training workshops called PresentR, by t3interactive, which helps to prepare speakers for their presentations.  The event was pretty fantastic. The group announced their new name, L-TEN, or Life Sciences Trainers and Educators Network, and the keynote presenter was Amy Cuddy, renowned social psychologist, who is famous for her research on nonverbal communication and a TED talk on power poising. We were psyched to be there.

During Cuddy’s keynote presentation there was a major technical snafu. Moments like this test every ounce of poise a speaker has. Her slides didn’t load correctly and it took some time for everything to get sorted out properly. Cuddy even had to step to the side and speak with a technician while in front of the room. But, it was what she did next that is the definition of “grace under fire.”

Cuddy remained completely calm and even cracked a joke with the audience saying, “If this doesn’t work, I’ll just do interpretive dance.” While it never came to that, it was her level of ease that kept the audience from feeling the effects of her stress.

I couldn’t help but think that there is a big lesson to be learned here. At some point, things will go wrong. Whether it’s something small like a ringing cell phone right as you hit your key point or something much larger like having to present without your supporting materials, it is vital to practice and feel completely prepared for your talk. It is your outward response to the stressful situation that cues the audience on how to react. If you remain calm, so will they.

Point Taken was at the conference to talk about the power of preparation in any presentation. Cuddy’s technical glitch provided a great example for the benefit of practice.  PresentR, developed by our friends at t3interactive, is a ground breaking software-based coaching tool that provides real time feedback for instant results while users practice their talk in a simulated presentation environment. Layering the use of this software with in-person coaching can help anyone gain the confidence to handle an issue of any size with the utmost grace.