In Melbourne last month for a speaking job, I was woken at 3am in my hotel room by the ‘woop woop’ sound of a fire alarm. Thinking as you do that the alarm was a false alarm, I turned over and tried to go back to sleep.

However, the alarm continued and quickly morphed into the hotel’s intercom warning “Evacuate, Evacuate”. Instinctively I grab my mobile phone (sad yes, but it was within arm’s reach OK?) and wearing my daggy pyjama pants and old conference t-shirt which doubles as a PJ shirt, I head towards my hotel room door, ready to join the crowd of weary hotel guests gathering in the corridor.

Just before the door closes, with the “Evacuate, Evacuate” sound still echo’ing loudly through the building, I turn quickly back into my room, open my luggage and grab my USB stick, which contained a copy of the power-point presentation I needed for my conference session the next day. So now, armed with my phone and USB stick I make my way with my fellow pyjama-clad guests down the stairwell towards the lobby.

Long story short. False alarm. Back to bed. Woke up next morning and did the presentation.

But the lesson….and the reason for me telling you my pyjama-related false-alarm tale?

As a presenter, one always needs to be prepared for emergencies.

Expect the unexpected. Cover all contingencies.

Have multiple backups of your presentation. Send a copy to your client. Carry a back-up on a USB stick in your pocket – which is what I was (almost) doing (pyjama pants don’t have pockets OK!). Save your preso to Dropbox (which I actually had done, but didn’t think of that in my 3am haze) so it’s accessible from anywhere. Or email your presentation to yourself (I had done this too, but better safe than sorry right?………although yes, yes, perhaps I wasn’t being sensibly safe returning to my room in this potential emergency situation).

Save your presentation in a variety of formats (ppt, pptx or as a pdf) as some computers are not compatible with others. If need be, prepare printouts of your slides. Better still, be prepared to be able to deliver your whole presentation if need be, with no slides at all, because sometimes technology will fail completely.

Computers play up. USB sticks don’t always work. A/V is not always OK. So always have your presentation available in multiple formats in a myriad of locations.

Just in case.

Perhaps my risking a firey end for the sake of my USB retrieval was not a wise, advisable course of action – but you get my point.

And while everything turned out fine, it did occur to me later, that while I would definitely have had my presentation available the next day, I hadn’t grabbed the rest of my luggage (ie – my clothes). I really hadn’t thought this through. So while I did I have my presentation backup, I would still have had to do my entire presentation in my PJ’s.

Now that would have made for a great story.

Andrew Klein is a conference speaker/trainer/writer/MC who talks about pitching and presenting. To date he has never had to do a presentation or pitch in his pyjamas. The picture at the top of this post is not him. It’s a model from a Peter Alexander catalogue, in case you were wondering.