Keep calm and carry on speaking

Some years ago Nigel Cooper arrived at the office of an important potential client, plugged in his memory stick, and hit play. “When the presentation was launched, there was just a series of empty white boxes where the words should have been,” he said. “I was totally bewildered. It had never happened before.”

There was an “eerie silence” as Cooper, a sales director at the time, frantically rebooted and tried his back-up. When that did not fix the problem — he later discovered that his slides used a font his clients did not have on their system — he gave the presentation off the cuff and won the deal. “I just stood there and talked. I’m not sure if they were impressed that I knew it all by heart, or if they were just very sympathetic.”

Speakers have to know their material to recover from this sort of technical problem, said Janet Howd, a voice coach. “I’ve seen many people flounder because it is clear that their secretary or someone else has written a very nice speech but the person does not know it. However clever someone is, if they don’t know the material, they can’t deal with something going wrong.”

Read more in The Sunday Times