What should you do when everything goes wrong? Learning from David Gorman

I just finished watching the DVD of David Gorman’s Googlewack adventure. I enjoyed it just as much as when I saw it live in 2003. Gorman demonstrates masterful storytelling, keeping the audience engaged for close to two hours. The story is packed with humor and punchlines without sounding contrived. Gorman shows us how PowerPoint should be used. Big photos, big text. Simple and effective.

When Gorman is speaking he depends on many things. His computer, the projector, sound, lighting etc. But technology often goes wrong. How often have you seen a presenter fiddling with a broken projector? How often has equipment failed you?

In the DVD extras to Googlewack it is revealed that Gorman was wearing a faulty microphone that had to be replaced during the show. Here’s how he reacted:

When you’re in front of a live audience you have to keep going. If disaster strikes you have to improvise. Gorman shows us how this is done.

When he is interrupted by a technician he maintains his connection with the audience. He doesn’t panic. He makes eye contact, tells jokes and keeps them laughing. He even bats down a mild heckle. When the show is ready to resume the audience is still in a happy mood and ready to continue laughing.

Gorman is an experienced comedian. By the time this show was filmed he had delivered it close to one hundred times. He had probably had to deal with all kinds of things going wrong, and had plenty of jokes at the ready to diffuse them. But I still got the sense that he was thinking on his feet when he delivered the line ”I hope they are recording this because this is a f***ing extra for the DVD”.

Things are always going to go wrong. Even if you have a Macintosh, or don’t use PowerPoint. You need to develop the ability to remain calm and think on your feet. Otherwise you’ll end up like this guy.

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