“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
– Albert Einstein
You may not agree with this sentiment after a mortifying moment in your previous presentation.
You make mistakes. Things go wrong. The unexpected happens at an office meeting with your bosses or high-profile clients, tradeshow, speaking event, or seminar covered by the press.
That’s the beauty, well, the price you pay for presenting or speaking in public.
You should prepare for worst-case scenarios, but you can’t possibly plan for every eventuality.
Take a minute to relax, apologize to the audience if you must, crack a joke, and find a workaround.
Be prepared and improvise
An emerging blogger’s first webinar almost ended up in failure, as his guest speaker couldn’t make it. What did the guy do? With losing his calm, he sent a heartfelt apology note to his subscribers, and rescheduled the webinar.
Live presentations however require quick thinking and immediate action. You may run out of time or given less time than original planned. Create short, medium, and long versions of your speech. Make notes with key takeaways, secondary points, and additional tips. Use these to avoid an abrupt presentation.
Let’s get technical
Your laptop may stop working or slide files won’t open. Audio systems or projectors may develop a snag. While you can’t do much about eelctrical problems at the venue, you can prepare for equipment failure.
Have backup files saved in USB or cloud. Create slide handouts and distribute them. If the mic fails, follow one of these tips. (link to previous article). For recorded events, test equipment with beta group.
Share a laugh with your audience
Have you ever tripped on the stage floor on your way to the pulpit? I did in front of 600+ college students and professors, and lived to tell the tale. Many have experienced other embarrassing situations from their skirt slipping off to organizers calling out the wrong name.
You feel ashamed, flustered, or humiliated, but try to smile or make a gag out of it. Allow audience to laugh when they realize you’re all right. Many of us have a soft spot for the underdog. Use this to your advantage. Remain focused on your speech, and the audience will root for you.
Keep calm and carry on
Have you seen theatre actors? Prompters remind them when they forget lines. When that fails, they do the next best thing – improvise and continue. The audience doesn’t really care. They enjoy the uninterrupted performance.
When you forget your lines, don’t let it affect your flow. Move on to the next topic. When you remember a specific point, introduce it to your audience at an appropriate place in your presentation.
Your presentation audience is much more forgiving than you think. Your audience may not notice these mistakes. Even when they do, they overlook a small disruption, if your content is interesting and they enjoy your speech.
What was the worst thing that happened in your presentation? Did you witness any disastrous moments?