Six things to remember if your presentation goes pear shape!(including when your skirt splits!)


Delivering a powerful presentation that is clear and compelling and results in action is the aim of the game.  And sometimes it doesn’t quite go to plan.  Here are some of the things that have happened to me in the past:


  1. I have got completely the wrong end of the stick – the wrong message for the wrong audience at the wrong time in the wrong manner – shudder
  2. My projector bulb blows and I don’t have a spare
  3. I reach up – and bring a chandelier light fitting down
  4. There is a fire evacuation right bang slap in the middle of the presentation – before I get to the point!
  5. I have a ‘saboteur’ in the audience – someone with a different point of view, a loud voice and a desire to express this – in the middle of the presentation
  6. I get no reaction or response to what I am saying – although it is clear afterwards that the audience ‘got it’, just didn’t ‘show it’
  7. I perch on a table top and split my skirt
  8. I inadvertently hit a sore spot in the audience’s experiences and set off a chain reaction of events that have little to do with me, my message, my mission

And there are more.  And my clients tell me of instances of drying up, audiences picking up on inaccurate information on slides, people ‘blackberrying’ while they are speaking and even people falling asleep!

I guess the thing is, it is easy to let this destroy our confidence and these experiences put us off ever speaking in public again.  I love the quote which I have attributed to Nelson Mandela (and he may have got it from Confucius!) – “The greatest glory in living lies not in never failing but in rising every time we fall”.   Things WILL go wrong from time to time – it’s the very stuff of being human, the nature of communication and ‘excitement’ of a live performance!  It is how we deal with these things that makes the difference.  Here are six tips to help us ‘rise every time we fall’

  1. Review your performance  – kindly.  What went well (it won’t have all been bad).  What do you need to do more of next time?  What can you start doing?  Note this is a positive, constructive and forward thinking way of reviewing your presentations.
  2. Prepare and prevent.  As they say prevention is better than cure.  Check the projector bulb and have a spare.  I always carry a needle and thread nowadays (and try to avoid perching on table tops!).  Be clear about your message so if the technology fails, you don’t.
  3. Stage-manage your space.  Check where people are sitting and ensure they are in good eye contact range (this way you can control the audience – their behaviours, their responses and the connection you build with them). Can you move to where you need to? Are there low hanging chandeliers?!
  4. Spend a significant proportion of your preparation targeting your audience and researching their needs, experiences, references and questions.  The more you do this the more relevant, engaging and valuable it will be for the audience and the ‘better behaved’ they will be.
  5. Keep everything in proportion.  No one dies as a result of your presentation.  It may not have gone how you planned and you are still there!  It might be harder and more time consuming to achieve what you want and the human being is remarkably resilient and creative when it has to be.
  6. Remember that audiences want to listen, watch, connect with another human being. Not a robot.  So if you fluff your words, stumble, need to check your prompt sheets – that is OK, it is human.  It is real. And people really do understand. If you have the prompt sheets, if you can recover because you have thought about your message, if you demonstrate that you want to add value to your audience – they will forgive you (and probably forget the gaffs amazingly!)

A wise man once told me that ‘Learning a skill will mean we get it wrong. If a thing is worth doing…it is worth doing badly in the first instance’.  So each time we speak, there is an opportunity to learn.  Cool.

What stories do you have to tell of when it went pear shaped?  Comment below and remember to contact Catherine if you want to talk about how she can help with your presentations.

This blog was originally part of a competition run by White Hart Training.  Entrants to the competition had to guess the originator of six quotes.  Each of the six quotes exemplifies six key factors about speaking in public.  Please browse the blogs for the remaining five quotes or search using the category

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