Presentation Horror Stories That Are So Terrifying You’ll Never Want to Public Speak Again

Woman Leading Boring Meeting

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AnnaMarie Houlis
AnnaMarie Houlis
May 23, 2024 at 11:22AM UTC
Meetings and presentations don't always go as planned — in fact, they seldom do. But it's not often that they go so horribly awry that they haunt us for the rest of our lives. If you needed a fright before Halloween night, we've got you covered. From personal photo bombs to wardrobe malfunctions in front of hundreds of colleagues and clients, five women lived to tell the harrowing details of their most indelible workplace horror stories.

1. The personal photo bomb

"I had an embarrassing presentation when my computer went into sleep mode during my power point and speech," says Claire, a personal coach. "It was projecting onto a huge screen a slideshow of my personal photos, one of which was my guy friend who had gotten wasted at a party and was running around naked and I had taken a picture of him for giggles. People gasped and started cracking up, and I was mortified. I was the keynote speaker and had an audience of approximately 200."

2. The meeting heart attack

"The CEO at my last company got up in the meeting room to give a presentation and had a heart attack," says Rachel, an interior designer. "He died shortly thereafter, and it was traumatic for everyone who witnessed it."

3. The wardrobe malfunction

"I was giving a presentation in front of hundreds of people in my company at a nation-wide conference we hold in Vegas every year; I had a rough night with some coworkers the evening before," says Courtney, who works for a finance firm. "When I stood up to talk, I noticed my colleague in the front trying to sign something to me. I couldn't understand what she was saying for the longest time. When I finished up, I realized my buttons on my shirt had been mismatched, so some of the buttons were popping off and the shirt was all uneven. I tried to play it off and act like it was nothing so no one else would see it."

4. The zombie parent

"I was talking at a parent-teacher meeting in front of all my students' parents when I realized that one of the dads had fallen asleep in the back of the room," says Taylor, a first-grade teacher. "He was snoring up a storm in the back and disrupting my entire talk. The other parents started laughing and one of the moms gave him an elbow to wake him up. When he got up he made up a joke about a common pattern with the kids sometimes falling asleep in class, too, suggesting that I'm boring. I was mortified, but I chalked it up to a bad dad joke and moved on."

5. The lunch fail

"I was meeting with my boss to ask for a raise a few months ago, and we were meeting just after lunch," says Claire, an editorial assistant. "I gave him my spiel and, when I finished, all he said was that I had margarita sauce on my blouse. He asked me what I ate for lunch and told me that, if I could afford to be eating at the Italian place down the street, I wouldn't need a raise. Said we'd revisit it in a few month's time. Until then, I'm eating browned-bag lunches in front of him."
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog,, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.

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