Making an impression (but not in a good way)

In February 2011 I fell off the stage while giving a presentation.

I was talking about using social media on projects to PMI’s UK Chapter, giving The Presentation With The Mixed Feedback that I also delivered in Washington the year before. The event was hosted in the wonderful Thomson Reuters auditorium, although it was daunting to know that I was using the same podium as the Prime Minister, as the company hosts many important media events there as well.

The stage in the auditorium is free-standing, and it doesn’t reach back to the wall. I was too short for people to see me over the podium and my open laptop, so I stood to the side of it. That meant I couldn’t quite see my laptop screen, so every so often I took a step back to remind myself of my notes, displayed via PowerPoint’s Presenter Mode.

But I took one step back too many.

Time froze as I teetered on the edge, losing my balance. I like to think I descended with the grace of a gazelle. I didn’t want to land on my backside in a pile of cables, especially given that I was wearing a pencil skirt. In that split second before I went completely over, I focused on a gap in the equipment lying behind the stage, and aimed there.

“Lovely venue, but there’s a big hole there,” I quipped, as I walked up the stairs at the side of the stage to regain the podium. “OK, I was talking about the geography of your team…”

I don’t remember reading anything about how to deal with that in my favorite book about public speaking, so I just pretended everything was completely fine, while inside cringing with embarrassment.

At least they will remember me, if not what I was actually talking about. Note to self: next time, take a stool and stand still.


  1. My most memorable presentation was to the Paris Chapter of PMI on OPM3 (Project Management Maturity Modelling, delivered in English), and at the end as I was standing at the front of the stage looking out to about 80 PM’s suddenly I started receiving catcalls and boos from the audience….

    I turned around and my screen saver had kicked in, and it basically was displaying a slide show of the England Rugby team, with images from the Six Nations tournament (during which England had recently won in Paris)…… I just smiled and attempted a Gaellic shrug as I moved the mouse to stop the offending images 😀



  2. Oh gosh. Hope you ego was the worst thing that got bruised! I’m always terrified I’m going to do that, haha

  3. Hi Elizabeth

    Rod Sowden, MSP Lead Author, fell off a stage at a conference once too. So you are in good company. People will remember you. Rod still gets reminded of it some 3 years lateer!

    best regards

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