Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, stood up on stage before a worldwide audience to introduce his newest program, Windows98. He and a colleague were demonstrating how easy it was to add peripheries onto the program. The colleague plugged in a scanner and waited for a message saying, "your new device has been loaded" to pop up on the giant screen behind him. Instead, the screen went blue and the dreaded "fatal error" message flashed behind them. There was some sort of glitch, and his powerful computer-aided graphics programs were not working. If the richest man in the world, the man who invented much of the way we use computers today, had problems with his presentations, chances are that, at some point, you will encounter an embarrassing problem or two.
Nowhere does Murphy's Law apply so well as with visual aids: If anything can go wrong, it will. To help you counter this law, I have included the checklist that follows on page 164. Use it and you'll always be prepared.
Just as Boy Scouts have their motto—"Always be prepared"—a speaker using visual aids must also have a motto—"Always have an alternative plan." And often that alternative plan rests with you. Visual aids can be wonderful devices, but you should never feel you can't deliver a good speech without them; you can. And at all times, just in case, you should be able to.
Vivid, instantaneous, exciting, and colorful are adjectives that can apply to your speech if you use good visual aids. Of course, a master of words can get praise like this for prose alone. But powerful speakers use visual aids to get themselves that much closer to presentation excellence. The next chapter, on stage managing, will show you how to ensure excellence and a smooth show by controlling environmental factors that affect your speech in general and your visual aids in particular.