How to fail on stage and use it to your advantage

Audience loves it when you goof up on stage!

But as a presenter you can use this to your advantage. You fail on stage – intentionally. Here is how you do it!

how to fail on stage - Dr. Nitin Paranjape

The Need

There is no NEED to do this. But if you do it well, the audience is going to just fall in love with you. So it is worth doing it – provided you can pull it off.

All of us have derive a sadistic pleasure when we see someone fail on stage. Microsoft has been known to have glitches on stage for during large scale, high-stake events.

Of course failure is bad and you everything in your control to prevent goof ups from happening during your presentations.

But there is another side of it – which I have been using very successfully for many years now.

What if you fail on stage – let the audience enjoy few moments of uncertainty and then surprise them by showing that it was a FAKE failure.

If the audience is right and you deliver it well, it has tremendous impact.

The audience is taken aback, then they admire your ingenuity and of course they will pay more attention to whatever you are presenting. It builds a good, friendly rapport with them instantly.

How much time does this whole FAKE FAILURE take? 2 minutes max.

Here is how you do it.

How to fake a failure on stage?

I have found a very nice method for it. This is how you do it. It works best if the audience is technical (developers, infrastructure or any other IT audience). But it can be used in other situations also.

  1. Download the fake failure presentation. And save it on your laptop.
  • Open your actual presentation and choose a slide on which a failure would have maximum impact. Now add a small rectangular shape.
  • Put a hyperlink from that shape to the RebV2.pptx presentation
  • Right now the rectangle is clearly visible. Make it smaller.
  • Position it in one of the corners.
  • Remove the border. Go to Fill Color and make it 99% transparent.
  • This way the rectangle will be almost invisible. But you know it is there.
  • Don’t forget the slide and the position of this rectangle!
  • Now, Start the presentation as usual
  • When you reach the slide with the hyperlink, mention that you are now going to show something important and critical.
  • Click on the rectangle with the hyperlink quickly. Don’t linger the mouse cursor there – it will show a tooltip with the full path of the presentation Sad smile
  • Now it appears that your laptop has rebooted and failed
    In technical terms it is called “Blue Screen Of Death”Blue screen of death
  • Everyone knows what it means – in most cases. Audience will be aghast. They will enjoy the tricky situation you are in. There will be stunned silence usually. The organizers will panic. The AV console people will be very worried.
  • You also have to play your part – depending upon your acting abilities – show some panic – utter some random words in the microphone – look confused – fiddle around a little.
  • Don’t spend more than 5 seconds on this slide. There is more fun ahead.
  • Now you click and show the next slide. This is a crucial slide.
  • It shows a Dell logo with some disturbance on the screen and then it shows a progress bar which is usually shown when the laptop reboots. This is a very convincing animation.image
  • When the progress bar reaches 100%, click again to show the next slide. Don’t stay on this slide for too long because everyone knows that this screen does not stay for long.
  • Continue to sound exasperated – apologize to the audience – tell the organizers to give you few more minutes to reboot.
  • Now the next screen shows a very authentic set of recovery options. These options are usually shown when the laptop cannot start on its own.
  • If the audience is technical, ask them for guidance.
    They will enthusiastically offer lot of suggestions!image
  • Enjoy the process as long as you feel appropriate – don’t over do it.
  • Now press Escape
  • The presentation comes back to the original slide in your presentation.
  • Now laugh and tell the joke to everyone and enjoy the mixed feelings that the audience goes through.
  • Now you have built a much better rapport with the audience.
  • Now settle down and continue with your original presentation.
  • Enjoy!
  • What really happened…

    I used this recently in the Share The Point conference recently in Singapore. There were 500+ people in the audience. It worked fine – and had the desired impact.

    But then – for some unexplained reasons – my display driver failed – genuinely! The screen went blank and came back after few seconds. I only had 20 minutes to speak. But this screen blanking happened 7 times… each time disrupting my presentation for 20 seconds.

    The presentation was tested just 30 minutes back from the same venue and nothing was changed. Still it failed – life is like that Smile

    In spite of this, audience loved the session. I could not record the video due to the display disturbance. But I hope to re-record it over the weekend and post the video.



3 thoughts on “How to fail on stage and use it to your advantage”

  1. You always make things interesting….you are blessed with that knack. Glad you are in IT field and great to know you.

Comments? Suggestions? Wish list?