The Presenter’s Bill of Rights

Bad news: you don’t have any.

You THINK you have the right to all of this stuff:

  • A working screen for a projector (as opposed to one that’s hung up in the ceiling and won’t come down)
  • A working projector
  • A functioning bulb in the projector
  • A stand for the projector within cord’s reach of the podium
  • A cord for the projector with inputs that match your laptop’s outputs
  • A working laptop (and by that I mean your own)
  • A laptop that doesn’t crash mid-session
  • A remote pointer with a laser
  • Charged batteries for the remote pointer
  • A current version of your presentation
  • An electric outlet near the podium
  • A podium
  • A whiteboard
  • Markers that aren’t permanent
  • An eraser
  • A comfortable room with working heating & air conditioning
  • A lack of noise from outside your room
  • In big rooms, a working microphone and speakers
  • An accurate introduction
  • Attendees who show up on time and don’t talk over you
  • Attendees
Attendees have the right to be distracted by my shirt.
Photo by Michael Kappel

But the reality is you’re not entitled to any of that stuff.  Oh, sure, if you’re lucky you might have some of it – but after speaking all over the world, I can guarantee that you’ll probably never have all of it.

If you blame the event organizers, you’re doing it wrong.  It’s your responsibility as a presenter to have backup plans.  You’d better not pack it up like a diva if the projector doesn’t work.  You’d better not throw a hissy fit if your opening act botches your name or your company.  Your heart rate better not rise if there’s no working electric outlet for your laptop.  You have to own your success as a presenter, and the very first part of that is to put the audience and the organizer at ease.

When – not if – you don’t have something you expected at the event, remember the real presenter’s bill of rights.

You have the right to get bad surprises,
and the obligation to deliver great surprises.

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12 Comments. Leave new

  • This is what I pack when I travel, but have to say – I presented in rooms without projectors.

  • Excellent

  • I don’t even have the right to wear flattering clothing that I’ve chosen myself, most of the time!

    I had a projector fail on me once mid-show. The audience was very good at paying attention as I continued, using interpretive dance to convey concepts about date and time in SQL Server. In fact, I think they enjoyed the presentation more than if the projector had stayed on. I guess there’s a lesson in there for me 🙂

  • Umm..I’m mostly curious about those experiences that made Brent write this list :D. And yes Kendra, I’m also curious about the dance you made to describe date and time :-).
    Would you care to expand that into a post? 🙂

    Maybe you all 4 do a wise guys gathering where to tell us more about that? You’re all experienced presenters and I’m sure you had your funny stories.


  • None of that bothers me. One of the advantages of working in children’s and youth programs/ministries as long as I have is I’ve learned to deal with unpredictability and lack of resources. I would highly recommend the experience to any speakers who want to get better at dealing with the unexpected.

  • Great post. I’d agree with all points other than one. “Attendee’s”. I think I would find it odd to press on if I didn’t have at least one person watching.

    On the other hand if no one shows up I could give my presentation without the cumbersome restriction of wearing pants.

  • I always have three presentations ready: Full-Tech, Some-Tech, No-Tech. You have to think, “what would I do if I only have an audience and my voice?”. I find that this actually helps with the Full-Tech session, since you’re focusing on what you are trying to say rather than how you say it.

  • Andrew Karcher
    July 11, 2021 4:57 am

    I would add working Wi-Fi to that list that allows your VPN and can connect to any cloud provider.

    I think all a speaker has to do to appreciate what can go wrong is to organize an event. One will quickly have to deal with all sorts of problems.

  • Brendan James O'Connor
    January 11, 2022 7:22 pm

    Blu-Tack, Flip chart paper, pens. All I’ve ever used.

  • No disruptions due to phone’s ringing.


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