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Five Things You Can Do When You Blow Your Presentation

Jeevan Sivasubramaniam Posted by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

Five Things You Can Do When You Blow Your Presentation

Karen Hough is a highly successful author and speaker who focuses on, among other things, effective communications and presentation skills. Here Karen has five tips for anyone for what to do when you totally blow your presentation:

1. Laugh! If you have a sense of humor, people will laugh along with you, rather than at you. Chuckling over the fact that “this went much better in my living room for my dog” will create a sense of relief and enjoyment in the audience. In addition, the more upset or worried you become, the more your audience will withdraw – they’ll be embarrassed for you. Honestly, the audience is cringing inside – they know how it feels to have things go wrong! And in the grand scheme of things, this may be a terrible moment for you, but it’s not the worst thing in the world. Perspective, people.

2. Breathe: When we get nervous, worried, or freaked out, our brains release cortisol, the stress hormone. It makes our heart rate increase and impedes our ability to think and reason. The great leveler is oxygen. Your system desperately needs more oxygen during stressful times, as it will slow the heart rate and calm the nervous system. Taking a deep breath, holding it for a few counts and letting it out slowly is a total pro move. You’ve got to get control of yourself, or you’ll never get control of the situation.

3. Acknowledge It: I’ve watched people continue on, pretend nothing is wrong when noise is invasive, actual walls are falling down and live animals somehow got into a venue. Do you think I remember a single thing they said?! You have to acknowledge the situation so that the audience knows you are aware. It also creates a sense of solidarity--we are all in this together. 

4. Deal with It: You have the right to take the time and engage the help you need to deal with any difficult situation! It’s your stage. I’ve stopped presentations, called on technical help, asked audience members to assist, called for an ambulance, fetched water or cough drops for someone in distress, evacuated a room for a fire alarm and given the audience a 10-minute break to manage a small flood. Not joking.

5. Move On: If you keep referring to the issue, even if you are making jokes, it gets old, upsetting and keeps reminding the audience of the moment when everything went off the rails. If you have resolved the issue, then let the audience be resolved as well. Move on, let it go, and give them a killer closing.

Good luck!