So the power went out during your talk, Now what?

No Power, No Microphone, No Slides, Just You.

So, this past Tuesday I gave at CE presentation at the Annual Massachusetts Society of Health-System Pharmacists (MSHP) on the growing role of mobile technology in pharmacy. The talk was to highlight mobile apps and mHealth trends in the current marketplace. 

Just as I was being introduced, the power cut out in the building, and the audience and myself was plunged into darkness. The backup generators kicked in a minute later, and thought that this was the most cruel April 1st joke ever played. 

But, it was not a joke, and I suddenly found myself with nothing to present with, no slides, no microphone, no tech. Ironic, given the fact that this was a Tech talk.

Panic Mode Initiated.

After talking with the moderator, and deliberating for a minute, we decided I should go on with the talk. I quickly asked who in the audience (a little over 70) had my slides, with only a quarter raising there hands. Great. We had gone so green, we decided to make slides only available online and then we cut the power. Most energy efficient conference ever!

Well, taking that all into consideration, I decided to just talk, and turn the whole program into a giant discussion of sorts. Usually, when I give this talk, I use my iPad to demo apps and get the audience involved. Needless to say, how I wanted to run things just went out of the window, and I had to decide as I went along how to run an hour long CE.

What I did, and What I would Do If It Happened Again.

I think most presenters prepare for worst case scenarios for their presentations, having extra slides, slides loaded to the cloud, slides on their flashdrives. Personally, I place them on my iPad for reference as well. In this case, that was my saving grace, to use as a reference. 

No Power, No Slides, No Microphone.

No Power, No Slides, No Microphone.

Alot of material I had to cut from my presentation. Live Demos? Gone. Videos? Gone. Instead, I engaged the audience in how they used tech in everyday lives more than usual, and transferred it into the pharmacy environment. I had people get up and give stories to foster discussions. We talked about apps we used and my thoughts and theirs on what made a good app. I have a checklist and demo how to review apps usually, so instead I had to describe my way through the process.

My talk spent more time then on mHealth going over how medicine and pharmacy is changing and patient engagement and the quantified self. Again, I involved the audience. I use alot of humour in my talks, and I used alot of the current situation to talk about how despite no power, or laptops or access to WiFi, everyone still had their smartphones and had limited data connection, and like our patients, thats why it matters. WE are always connected some way.

Thinking back on it, I realize now that the audience connection was probably what saved my talk, and what I should continue to do more in the future. I think the engagement was redeeming and made everyone feel they got something out of it.

For those that experience this, my recommendation is to quickly think about what information you can use that does not need tables, graphs, and figures to explain. If you were heavily invested in those slides, think fast and paint a picture in your audience heads about what the point of the data you were trying to present meant in the end. Ensure if you use cases or examples in your presentation, that they are not dependent on the slides themselves, but the story behind it and the clinical message is maintained.

PowerPoint is amazing at times. Its great to give that imagery. But yet, just as everyone in the past, the oratory message must ring out clear, and your presentation style must not rely on your slides or images. Its a matter of presentation and voice and personality.