Preparing for Failure

A comprehensive list of all the things that could go wrong at your presentation, and a corresponding backup plan for every single problem. Preparing the backup plan ahead of time ensures success on the day of your presentation.

Trigger warning: This resource addresses all the ways people can fail. It is a very long list. If it’s never occurred to you to be nervous or to think about failure, this resource might make you nervous.


Adrenaline is normal. The amount of adrenaline each person has to handle will be different. Excessive adrenaline can be overwhelming to the point of not being able to deliver your presentation. By focusing on the factors you can control, and ensuring you are prepared, you should be able to reduce the negative anxiety that many people experience when it comes to public speaking. The rest of this resource is about ensuring you feel prepared.

Technical Failure

  • Solution: Be prepared to tell your story without any aids and it will be impossible for you to fail.
  • Allow others to fix the failures where possible.
  • Continue your presentation without the aids if you can. No one wants to watch you debug.

Computer Failure

  • Solution: Have your digital presentation aids on a USB stick in a software-agnostic format (for example: PDF for slides and screencast of your demos).

Projector Failure

  • Solution: Upload your slides to a public location and allow attendees to download them and follow along on their laptops.

Internet Failure

  • Solution: Have a local copy of all external resources (video & screenshots).
  • To download embedded video, I have used the Ant plugin on Firefox.

Microphone Failure

  • Microphone failure is not your problem. Professional AV technicians (who get paid a lot more than you do for your presentation) will fix this for you.

  • In Chicago the wrong audio was piped into my room even though I had completed a tech check ahead of time. I lost approximately 5 minutes from the beginning of my presentation as a result. I had fun pantomiming Crell's presentation while we waited for the technicians to fix the feed.

  • DO NOT TOUCH THE MIC SETTINGS. Ever. In Munich Morten's “adjustments” resulted in his metal music being recorded instead of his lapel mic.

Recording Failure

  • This is not your problem!
  • However! If you have a white paper, or blog post equivalent of your talk, it matters less that it wasn’t captured as a video as well.
  • You may also want to screencast yourself giving the presentation during a practice run. You could then upload your practice session to the Internet.
  • If there was a recording failure, you may be asked to give your presentation again later in the conference in a different room. This is optional but appreciated.

Zero Chance of Failure

  • Print out your slides.
  • Upload your slides to the DrupalCon site ahead of time and link them from the body field.
  • Have all presentation aids on a USB stick & as a .zip online.
  • Download all your online resources from the Internet (e.g. video).
  • Screencast what you cannot live without (e.g. demo).
  • Have a “white paper” or blog post for your talk.
  • Practice your talk in an empty room, out loud from start to finish. Three times. Record all three.
  • On the day of your presentation, pack clean clothes, your computer and, your laptop charger.