Let's set the scene. You're the CEO of a company in a buzzing industry and one of the featured presenters at a high-tech conference. You're introduced to take the stage, your pointer-clicker is in hand, and your mic is on. You walk to the podium, take a quick breath, and ask if the slides are all queued up. Then you hear 7 terrifying words:

"We do not have slides for you."

Gulp. Come again?

Yes, that is exactly what happened to Scott Totzke, CEO & Co-founder of ISARA Corporation, when speaking to the integrated pathway to the high-tech future at the Hudson Institute. Scott's specific topic was no ordinary one either, as he was providing an overview of ISARA's Agile Quantum-Safe Security.

Turns out, the slides were never sent in. Hey, mistakes happen. But Scott's reaction? Simply brilliant. 

"We don't have any slides for me?"

"OK ... I don't have any slides," he deadpans. "They were brilliant!" -- he then chuckled and proceeded without the slides. After all, in the words of the great Freddie Mercury, the show must go on, right?

See for yourselves:

Planning and handling the unexpected

Speaking in public is no joke. Some people even fear the idea of it more than death itself. Even though you might think self-confidence is a prerequisite for business leaders, it's staggering how many people I've watched turn and walk off the stage when faced with a situation like the one Scott Totzke encountered. Luckily for all of us, this one instance was even captured on video.

As I watched this unfold, it struck me that embedded in this scenario is a huge lesson that all entrepreneurs could afford to take to heart.

Unexpected occurrences are ... to be expected. In order to minimize their ability to faze you, go ahead and plan for them to happen at the least convenient time. Yes, plan for the unexpected. Your resilience will be hardened as a result. 

It's not that you should underestimate the importance of preparation. You absolutely want to prepare and to build a high-level of confidence going into any presentation or meeting. In fact, the point here is that wherever possible, you should prepare to be unprepared. Remind yourself that mistakes happen and we're all human.

You should also bear in mind that over-confidence isn't helpful, either. In other words -- have a backup plan. Scott did, in the form of printed slides on the podium in front of him. Not his first choice, but enough to get him by. All aspects of your business plan deserve a backup, especially when it comes to moments you can't get back.

And when all else fails, have a laugh and try to take it in stride.

Columnist disclosure: Tom is an employee of the Hawkins Group who is partnered with ISARA Corp. Hawkins Group was in attendance at the above-mentioned conference.

Published on: Oct 18, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.