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 at the PMI Global Congress 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.