What do Mark Zuckerberg and Ronald Reagan have in common? They’ve both made embarrassing presentation blunders that you can learn from. Even the most well-known public figures can run into mishaps sometimes. Learn from these four presentation fails to become a more polished public speaker:

Lesson #1: Hog the Limelight

In the 1990’s, Steve Jobs was delivering a presentation when an image of Bill Gates was put on a massive projector behind him. “That was my worst and stupidest staging mistake of my life,” Jobs later told his biographer. “It was bad because it made me look small, and Apple look small, and as if everything was in Bill’s hands.” Learn from Steve’s mistake by triple-checking your presentation materials and coordinating with everyone involved with your audio-visual aids.

Photo Credit: By Joi Ito from Inbamura, Japan (Steve Jobs and Bill Gates on Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


Lesson #2: Dress Appropriately

In 2010, journalist Kara Swisher drilled Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook’s privacy policies during a conference panel, and Zuckerberg felt the heat. “Do you want to take off the hoodie?” Swisher asked. “No, I never take off the hoodie,” he replied. All this sweat only enhanced suspicion of Facebook’s privacy policies. Remember: bright lights, crowded venues, and nerves can make any presenter break a sweat. Dressing appropriately can make your presentation way *cooler*.

Photo Credit: By Copyright by World Economic Forum - WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM ANNUAL MEETING 2009 - Mark Zuckerberg, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5835672
Photo Credit: By Copyright by World Economic Forum [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


Lesson #3: Keep Dry Runs Clean

President Ronald Reagan once joked during a soundcheck for a radio address, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” Not everyone thought the joke was funny or appropriate, and President Reagan learned something we can all learn from: it’s better to keep your controversial comments away from the microphone.

Photo Credit: Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=257998


Lesson #4: No “Performance Enhancers”

Way back in the 1800’s, U.S. Vice President Andrew Johnson had a reputation as an excellent speaker. That is, until Lincoln’s second inauguration, when he was clearly drunk. Rumor has it that he had a few too many whiskeys at the Capitol before the inauguration kicked off. It’s a timeless lesson: politicians and presenters alike would be wise to avoid the bottle until *after* the speech is over and it’s an appropriate time to celebrate.

Photo Credit: By Mathew Brady, Retouched by Mmxx [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Happy zeeting! 🙂

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