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This week, with Halloween coming up, we’re having a bit of fun with some speaker horror stories. We all have them—some more horrifying than others! I’ve been relatively lucky as a speaker; my horror experiences come from having to prepare for a talk at the last minute. I’ve never had anything truly horrendous like a wardrobe malfunction (fingers crossed!). Now sit back and enjoy some Schadenfreude!


Never rely on the internet

As speakers, we can control many things, but the things that are out of our hands are technical gremlins.  Granted, we can actively help reduce the chance of failures; for example, you can proactively deal with the problem of not having the proper projector output on your laptop by carrying just about every adapter known to man.  Sometimes you run into the challenge of refresh rates not being supported on older projectors, so be prepared to use the equipment provided by the facility. And there are times that the presentation gods are just going to frown upon you.

A few years ago, this was the case during a presentation to the Sun City Computer Club in Georgetown, TX.  I had presented to this group several times and knew that there would be a good audience of 100+. I was going to do one of my vision of the future of technology talks.  Rather than fight with versioning issues of PowerPoint on their old laptop, I decided to use one of our (Microsoft’s) new applications Sway. It is a cloud-based app that is great for storytelling and a nice change from PowerPoint and works from any browser. The only downside was that I needed an Internet connection to function as there is no offline copy.  The event was being held in one of the ballrooms in Sun City, so I didn’t give a second thought about the reliability of the connection.

I was about 10-15 min into my presentation, and just hitting my stride, when I swiped to go to the next tile and was greeted by a “Cannot Connect” message in my browser.  No worries, I thought. Just hit refresh and …nothing. I glanced down and noticed that the network icon in the system tray indicated that there was no Internet connection.  I asked my host to please go check the router. In the meantime, I proceeded with my presentation which had now become a monologue.

A few minutes later, my host returned to inform me that the ISP has decided that today was the day they were going to do some upgrades and would take at least an hour. I nodded to him, and then with a laugh, I announced I would be performing shadow puppets for the remainder of the presentation. A round of laughter ensued, and then I proceeded with my talk undeterred from sharing my vision with them. In fact, it was one of the best sessions I ever had with that group. Even better, it illustrated that any future reliant on an Internet connection is subject to failure.

There were a couple of things which contributed to me avoiding a full-fledged horror story.  First, my slides typically have little data and are used to enhance and extend the topic I am presenting.  I use a lot of quotes from famous people or pictures to anchor the subject for that slide.

The second reason is that I tell stories.  Because I don’t really rely on a slide or tile to carry the message, I was able to just take my audience on a journey with word pictures and a compelling story arc.

Doug Thompson

What can go wrong will go wrong

As a gamification consultant with years of presentation experience, I was at ease and about to deliver a presentation to a group of 200 people in a circus tent.  I love cool venues, but this one turned into a nightmare.

There was an all-out tech crash. Clicker, live feed, microphone, you name it, it went wrong.  I had to use my experience as a professional singer to deal with the situation and kept the audience entertained while the maintenance crew fixed the issue which took a whole 20 minutes.

Sabrina Bruehwiler

I nearly got labelled an international terrorist

I was gifted a self-defense weapon by an attendee of an event I spoke at in Phoenix. His company sells them. It was a very sweet gift: small, pink, and innocent looking. It resembled more of a “bedside drawer” item than a weapon. So I had it in my bag and forgot about it.

I traveled all over the US for the next month or so, and then I was flying to Canada to speak at the DYPB (Discover Your Personal Brand) conference in Toronto. At security, I was pulled aside to wait and then had to answer questions. They went through every item in my bag and showed me the weapon. I had completely forgotten about it, as no one at domestic airport security had mentioned it before.

By the time I was cleared to travel, I’d missed my flight and had to pay another $600 to get a flight the next morning. The conference rearranged the speaker times so I’d be speaking after lunch, and it all worked out, but it certainly was an inconvenience to be temporarily labeled a potential international terrorist.

Lila Smith




Voxgig Podcast

Coming Soon… 

I am delighted to announce that  voxgig is starting a podcast series! The title of the series is ‘Fireside with voxgig’. In each podcast, I’ll be interviewing leading experts from the events industry.  The aim is to deliver high quality insights, valuable public speaking tips and enjoyable personal success stories, all in a relaxed, informal and chatty style. Keep an eye out here for the first podcast in the series, coming soon. 

Speaker Profile

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Face Your Fears. Amazing Things Await.
Dr. Austin Gallagher

For many people, fear can pose a significant roadblock in achieving their goals. In fact, nearly 40% of people fear their future. Dr. Austin Gallagher shares his personal story of how overcoming a fear of the thing he wanted to study most – sharks – ultimately changed the way he views the world and helped him launch a successful career.


Learn from the Best

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Microsoft’s presenter installs Chrome during presentation because Edge won’t work

If you’re a Microsoft employee, this is perhaps your worst nightmare come true during a presentation.  I do love how he deals with it though.

Tell me…

What is your biggest challenge as an event speaker?

This newsletter is for you. I want it to resonate with you.

So go ahead, hit reply, and tell me what you want to read about. Or email me at richard@voxgig.com. You can tweet too: @voxgig.

I’ll address the most pressing issues in each edition.

Cartoon image of a ghost saying boo

Blog Post

13 Public Speaking Pros Share Their Best Tips and Horror Stories

Public speaking tips with horror stories thrown in, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Speaker Training

Do you speak at conferences? Want to learn how to give the very best talks? Or are you just starting out and want to overcome the fear of speaking on stage?
We are running speaker training workshops in Dublin, Ireland and London, U.K. over the coming months.

Speaker workshops are £150

There is an early bird price of £100 if booked a month in advance.
To find out more follow the links below

Giving great talks with Russ Miles

London, UK – Thursday November 8, 2018 | More Details

Three Conferences

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Emtech Asia

January 22 – 23 2019



The world’s most influential leaders and innovators are coming to EmTech Asia. Get inspired and hear from those who are driving the next generation of technological breakthroughs and changing the world.


JS Kongress Munich Logo


March 11- 12 2019


The focus of JS Kongress 2019 is on the (r)evolution of architectures. Microservices, data-driven architectures, event sourcing, stream-oriented architectures, cloud native computing, and API first are becoming first-class citizens in software architectures. Also, front-end architectures are improving quickly: reactive programming, redux and the art of state management.


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DevFest LA

Los Angeles

December 02 2018


Google Developer Group DevFests are the largest Google-related events in the world. Each DevFest is carefully crafted for you by your local GDG community to bring in awesome speakers, great topics, and lots of fun. While no two events will be exactly alike, each GDG DevFest will, at its core, be powered by a shared belief that when developers come together to exchange ideas, amazing things can happen.


Upcoming CFP Deadlines

DevFest LA, Los Angeles, October 31 2018

JS Kongress, Munich, November 15 2018

DEVNET Create, CA, November 30 2018




A favour…

Can I ask you for a favour? If you enjoy this newsletter, and if you find it useful, please consider recommending it to a friend who is learning to give technical talks, or who aspires to do so. I meet so many cool programmers who have brilliant things to share with the world—that’s you!

Please help me to improve this newsletter – I’d love to hear your suggestions! You can email me directly at richard@voxgig.com. You can tweet too: @voxgig. Thank you so much for reading!

A special thanks and shout out to Cora,  for helping to make this newsletter even better!


Thank you! Please let me know what you think!