Curated by Amy Hammer
It’s all happened to us. As much as you would like to forget, you will always remember those cringe-worthy moments during a presentation that unfortunately will be remembered by an audience as well. Regardless of how many years of experience you have under your belt, no one is exempt from a presentation faux pas. A misspoken word, an awkward silence, or a weird circumstance, all and anything can keep even the most seasoned professionals on their toes. Two of the contributors reflect and share on some of their most memorable presentation flubs that we can all certainly relate to.
JULIO MATA – MIAMI UNIVERSITY
We can all recount some classic college fair one-liners but nothing in my 7 years of working in admission comes close to the following interaction. My biggest (and favorite) presentation flub took place two years ago at a high school visit in the Bay Area:
Me: Have any of you seen the movie Admission with Tina Fey?
Students: Oh yeah!! Such a great movie.
Girl 1: (to the girl sitting across from her) You are JUST like Tina Fey! You look and act just like her.
Girl 2: No, I don’t! Why does everyone say that?
Me: Don’t worry. That’s a great thing. I’m a big fan of Tina Fey. Pretty sure I have a big crush on her.
(awkward pause as I notice all the stunned faces looking at me around the table)
(realizing what I just said)
Me: I mean, I don’t have a crush on you…because you look like Tina Fey. I mean, I’m sure you’re great and all but….whoa, ok, I’m sorry. I’m just going to stop talking right now. I need some coffee. Who wants to talk about the application process?
(Student and college counselor laughter ensues)
Moral of the story: Don’t start an early morning high school visit without being properly caffeinated.
JOEL ONTIVEROS – UCLA
The reason I am able to make it through the thick and thin of travel season with college fairs, high school visits, and information sessions is from one thing: the presentation.
Being a double major in Communication Studies and Dance while in college, I have always enjoyed being an entertainer. And luckily because of UCLA, I tend to present in front of larger audiences especially at my high school visits in and around California. Any normal day of recruiting in the Los Angeles area, I am visiting 3 to 4 high schools and seeing at least 100-150 students total per day. If you are a student or counselor that has witnessed one of my high school presentations, you know that I do my very best to be engaging and comedic so as to keep students’ attention. I not only do this to keep students from falling asleep or going on their phones, but also to make the college application process just a little less daunting and that much more friendly.
Because of that dance degree, you will always catch me moving around a room when presenting to groups. I couldn’t tell you if it’s a nervous habit or just my presentation style, but I literally cannot stop moving once I start talking. I have gone so far to start most of my presentations with the statement, “I’m going to give this presentation Ted Talk style, so try and keep up as I move around the space.”
I’d like to say that under any given situation or circumstance at these high school visits, I am fairly adaptable when presenting to make it seem like the normal spiel given at any other presentation. However, the one thing I seem to always overlook during rapid travel to and from one school to another is….a bathroom break. More often than not, I can find a smidgeon of time to stop at a fast food restaurant or request the closest faculty restroom at a school once I’m set up in the presentation room. But on one of my last visits of Fall recruitment last year, I had arrived just on time for my school visit, started presenting, and then realized, “Uh oh, I REALLY got to go.”
Thankfully, my dancer spirit enabled me with the superhuman powers to ward off any restroom urges. And while I usually walk to and fro around a presentation room, this high school audience in the San Fernando valley witnessed one of my more momentous and movement filled speeches ever. Between the recitation of academic resources and on campus housing types there was a smattering of small leaps, side steps and shuffles. The narration of research opportunities and financial aid assistance was sandwiched between hip-hop like gesticulating and lines of moonwalking. Admission information about applying to the University of California was provided on relevé, and between answers of the short Q&A session you could hear basic tap-dancing patterns on the tile floor.
While in my mind’s eye this was one of the most horrific school presentations I ever gave, I sometimes like to think that a particular group of high school students in the valley sometimes think to themselves, “Gee-whiz, who would have thought I would learn so much about UCLA through the art of dance!” My old dance professors would have been so proud of my collaboration between movement and inspiration for higher education. If only I could have invited them to this historic performance titled, “Thinking about the toilet.”