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So… Your Fly is Open – How to Handle Speech Disasters

by | Jul 4, 2024 | 2 comments

Speech gremlins!

It happens.

  • Your slide deck won’t open.
  • Sound from the next meeting room at the convention center gets piped into your room and suddenly your presentation on your product launch becomes a speech about some other company’s debt risk.
  • During your speech someone on your Board of Directors gets lightheaded and falls to the ground.

Recently I spoke to my National Speakers Association / North Texas Chapter’s Academy, a group of professionals from other industries who want to turn speaking into a career. I volunteered to coach some of their 10-minute presentations.

A gentleman got up and talked about  sexual harassment in the work place. He was good. Except I was distracted.

I leaned over to another seasoned speaker and asked, “Jim, is his fly open?” He nodded affirmatively. 🙃  I love irony. I tried not to burst into laughter.

How do you handle speech disasters?

  1. Honor the distraction because everyone else is. NO ONE is listening to you. “Wow – that’s a lot of noise in the next room! Let’s see if we can top that! On the count of 3 clap and shout!”
  2. Stop if there’s an emergency in the room. “I see that a participant has fainted. Let’s pause right now. Everyone – talk quietly amongst yourselves while our meeting planner gets some assistance to our attendee.”
  3. Find the humor. “Did I just spill my coffee all the way down my new white blouse?” “Yes!” they respond. “It’s called Abstract Coffee Art… Thank the Lord I have a shawl.”

What did our guy with the open fly do?

He noticed this wardrobe malfunction AFTER his speech while listening to our feedback. Then he did #1 and #3 above by saying, “I guess I have another new story to tell about how to overcome idiot moments!”

© 2024 Karen Cortell Reisman, All rights reserved.

© 123RF Stock Photo


  1. Mary Rock

    Perfect! Good tips Karen!

    • Karen Cortell Reisman

      Hi Mary! Thanks for your comment. Always great to hear from you.


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