Tech disaster strikes!

What to do in those awkward pauses when you’re teaching, speaking or facilitating

You boot up your computer and plug in the USB stick. Nothing happens.

Even worse: a brain disaster. You consult your notes and you have no idea what to do next. Absolutely no idea.


Everybody is looking at me expectantly.

What do I do?

This happened to me recently and I blanked. I pretended I knew what was coming up and felt incredibly stupid for 2 minutes while everybody watched me fill the space with words.

I reflected afterwards there’s nothing wrong with not knowing what to do. A teacher or facilitator or speaker’s job isn’t to know everything or be perfect, it’s to spark ideas or introduce processes that allow others to learn.

So, what can you do in those awkward moments?

Ask people to talk among themselves

This is a good go-to.

It gives you permission to fluff about for a while, nothing more. Better than you pretending to know what you’re on about, when you’re actually nervous and unsure as anything on the inside.

Pair people off in discussions

This can be done really easily.

Think of a question. How are you finding the workshop so far? What questions do you still want answered? What’s been your favourite part so far? What’s the main reason you’re here?

Invite people to pair up (maybe just with the person next to them or with somebody they haven’t talked to yet) and to take 3 minutes each to answer the question.

Doing this will get the room buzzing and raise the energy. So that when you’re ready to go, people are feeling ready to participate.

Embrace and give meaning to the silence

Perhaps the room is in a quiet contemplative space. Why ruin that?

Invite people to sit quietly and focus on their breath or their body, or reflect for 2 minutes on what their intention is for the upcoming session. The silence then becomes purposeful instead of awkward.

Pair walk

One of my favourite time-fillers is the pair walk. You ask people to find a pair and walk around the block or the building. Invite them to discuss a particular question, and then send them off.

Ask for a volunteer to lead a physical energiser

You don’t need to be the centre of attention. Trust the group and ask for a volunteer to lead an energiser for 3 minutes.

There’s no better way to build community and trust than by trusting the community.

And while they’re leading the energiser, you can take 3 minutes to plan your next step.