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Microsoft Lesson: What to Do When Tech Fails

Categories: Business Presentations


In 1995, Bill Gates, Microsoft’s co-founder & former CEO, was delivering a pre-launch presentation of Windows 98 live on national TV. As a colleague plugged in a scanner, the computer suddenly crashed and showed the dire “Blue Screen” message...

With cameras still rolling, the studio audience started laughing and clapping, to which Gates replied, “That must be … that must be why we're not shipping Windows 98 yet!” and his colleague smiling, agreed, “Absolutely, absolutely.”

It’s Murphy’s Law. Your computer will experience technical difficulties at the time when it’s needed most. How many of you have delivered presentations when your PowerPoint froze or your computer crashed?

“It's fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” – Bill Gates

In 2012 the tech giant had another epic technology fail during a live product launch presentation. The most recent incident featured Microsoft’s former President of Windows and Windows Live Division, Steven Sinofsky, as he delivered the official launch presentation for the Surface tablet. The tablet crashed right in the middle of his presentation! Mr. Sinofsky said, “Excuse me just a second” before grabbing a backup tablet behind a lectern that was ready to go within 20 seconds.

Microsoft had learned the important lesson that Gates referred to in his quote – and ensured a backup unit was ready.

You’ve heard that prevention is the best remedy. Before your presentation begins:

  • Practice using the facility’s equipment to prevent connection or equipment issues
  • Check if there is an on-site tech support person who can be there to assist as needed

What should you do when you run into a technology glitch that could not be prevented? Here are 4 tips to keep your business presentation on track:

  1. Don’t get flustered! The way you handle the issue will be remembered more than the actual technical glitch. Stay calm and follow the additional tips below.
  2. Use humor. A quick self-deprecating joke can help – then move on.
  3. Know your content well enough to improvise or paraphrase what was on the slide.
  4. Bring an extra jump drive with your slides so that you can quickly switch laptops if needed.

Worst-case scenario: You need to be able to present without the aid of the slides if it comes to that. Practicing in advance for such a outcome will help you be prepared for anything!

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