Ahhh! Presentation Horror Stories!



Sure, stories of ghosts, goblins and ghouls are scary, but if you’re anything like us, there’s something even more terrifying, a topic that haunts you to your very core: presentation horror stories!


To celebrate the spookiest season, we asked our team to share some of the most bone-chilling, spine-tingling stories of disappearing files, requests that seem to return from the grave, haunted icon libraries, and more! No need to grab candy, because this week we’re taking a break from the PowerPoint tricks to share a few treats.


So read on… if you dare!


The Curious Case of the Disappearing Slides

It was one of our few and far between late night jam sessions. A large, important client wanted a massive deck done by the next day, and we had resigned ourselves to knowing we couldn’t knock it out in one normal work day, even when absolutely fueled by caffeine.


We all banded together and prepared for our long night ahead, ready for as many extra hours as it would take all to make our next day a little better. We settled in, cans of soda and noise cancelling headphones strapped in and hacked away at the monstrous 100+ slide ask. Finally at 10pm, we headed home for the night, our brain capacity absolutely used up, knowing we would have to be back just a few hours later.


The next morning all seemed well. The rest of the task seemed manageable for the impending deadline. “Ah yes we can finish today, no problem!”, we said, just silly little hopeful designers.


And then the email came.


I saw our Creative Director’s face drop, all expression and hope sliding away.


The client had sent an entirely new version of the deck, erasing half of the slides we had worked on through the evening. Hours of work were simply thrown away and replaced with new slides and designs that had to be done in the same amount of time.


Our CD immediately stood up and left the office. I understand the importance of the “I Need a Minute Before I Deal with This Tomfoolery” Lap™ so I didn’t think anything of it. As time continued to pass and he still hadn’t come back, the other designer and I looked at each other with expressions saying we were now considering life without a boss.


Then, finally, he strolled back in. He sat down in his chair, seeing our faces and looked at us expectantly.


“We thought you weren’t coming back”, we (half) joked.


“Oh I thought about it,” he replied. “Then I got a breakfast burrito.”


- Eek! It’s Emily



Back From the Digital Graveyard

Death, heights, and the vast cold embrace of the sea are all common fears that show humanity’s common dread of the loss of control. As a designer, I felt that same cold fear creep up my spine late into the evening back when being at the office was the norm.


It was a dark and not quite stormy night when a fellow designer and I were finishing up a deck for a client. We were doing the final polishing before sending it off into the void for the client, we were refining, checking grammar, and of course dropping in the icons for the deck. I went to open the file of the vast library of icons, a library I had curated and maintained like a garden for years, but was met with a dreaded thump from the computer. A little window with the yellow triangle of caution announced that the file could not be read, and my carefully stocked library of icons was not just empty, but lost.


I felt like I had watched the Library of Alexandria itself burn down at that moment. It was already late into the night when I realized all the icons were gone, and my task just got much longer and more difficult. That’s when the ice in my veins set in.


I panicked for a while, sending a frantic message on Slack to the other designer, despite her sitting right next to me. We both were mortified at the digital death of our library, but mourning did not last long as she reminded me I could reach back into time itself and bring back the past version of the library.


Luckily the cloud system saved us from what could’ve been a true nightmare. I revived a previous version of the library and we were able to export the icons we needed and slide them into the deck. It was a grim reminder that we are always at the mercy of the programs that we use, and that no matter how hard you try, you can’t control everything.


- Shrieking Sheren



The Re-Animator

I was proofreading a PowerPoint that had to get out the door by EOD. Unfortunately, there were some animations that needed updating, and the designer had already logged off for the day. As a project manager, this was not my area of expertise. But thanks to one of our training blogs and a quick Google search, I was able to make the updates and get the presentation out the door. The scary part? I sent the file to the client at 10:30 PM...not quite the EOD delivery I had pictured!


- Abominable Abbey



The Undeadline

I had driven far enough out that the quilted patchwork of suburbs around Chicago was fraying past the point of recognition. I was on my way to pick up a vintage Miller High Life candy dispenser off of a popular online local marketplace. A certain friend of mine who really enjoys High Life had a birthday coming up. I know you, the reader, were probably asking why, so now you won’t be left wondering whether I’m a secret collector of candy dispensers.


This was my favorite part about buying stuff from those kinds of sites—the new and unfamiliar towns I would navigate to a little further out of the city’s orbit. The sun had sunk enough to temper the heat, so I had the windows rolled down, enjoying the fact that there were finally hills to roll over. That’s when it happened.


Ping-pa-ping-ping-ping. The panicked cadence of multiple Slack alerts interrupted my soundtrack and immediately pierced through my daydreams.


One message from our team leader read, “POWERPOINT 911, ALL HANDS ON DECK!”


We were instructed to immediately dial in, as soon as we could. This had never happened before in my entire time with this company. Sure we’ve worked late into the night occasionally, but we’ve never been summoned back en masse unexpectedly. I thought about how I was at least an hour’s drive from the city, where my laptop was. The conversation went like this:


“We have to redo almost all of the deck.”


“The one the entire team worked on… that’s being presented tomorrow?”


“That’s the one. The boxes with the direction on all the slides? It was almost completely wrong. The correct content was in the notes section, and it almost completely contradicts what we did. Our client forgot to mention this.”


My heart sank as I made sense of the words in my head. Our entire team spent the day building the wrong deck and now, we had to fix it in a small fraction of that time, or face the biggest flop we’ve ever potentially suffered. I thought about my computer, at home on my desk, and how we were separated by 45 miles of urban jungle. I won’t admit how fast I got back to my apartment, I’m not sure what the statute of limitations for certain traffic violations is in Illinois. But I eventually sat down to help my team.


I don’t know if it was the collective adrenaline rush, but we pulled it off in a matter of a couple hours.


To this day I always check the speakers notes. I’m terrified an undead-deadline will jump in front of my car.


- Devilish Dave


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