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 speak 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 volunteer to coach some of their 10-minute presentations.

A gentleman gets up and talks about  sexual harassment in the work place. He’s good. Except I’m distracted.

I lean over to another seasoned speaker and ask, “Jim, is his fly open?” He nods affirmatively. I love irony. I try 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 loud fire alarm! Let’s see if we need to evacuate.”
  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 does our guy with the open fly do?

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

© 123RF Stock Photo

© Karen Cortell Reisman, M.S., author of 3 books and President of Speak For Yourself®, works with decision makers on how to speak with gravitas. It’s all in how you speak for yourself. Karen also speaks about her cousin, Albert Einstein, in a message about hope, resilience and brassieres.

Read more at www.SpeakForYourself.

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