How A Speaker Can Recover From Giving A Bad Speech

One bad speech should not end a speaking career
One bad speech should not end a speaking career Image Credit: Steve Jurvetson

We all hope that our next speech goes well. However, let’s face it – it might not. In fact, sometimes when we take the stage to give a speech it can turn out horribly badly. The number of things that can go wrong is almost limitless: we can trip, the mic can stop working, we can fall off of the stage, we can forget our words, and the list goes on and on. Having a speech go really, really badly can scar a speaker for life. We just died in front of a big audience – how can we ever go back up on that stage? It turns out that failing big is something that a lot of us have done. The good news is that you can recover, you just have to know how to go about doing it.

Dealing With A Bad Speech

Let’s face it, not all of the speeches that we give will be winners. It’s likely that you can empathize with a speaker who has given a disappointing presentation – one that did not go as well as they had hoped or that they weren’t proud of. How, then, can a speaker recover from a bad speech and prevent the experience from eroding their confidence?

We Need To Be Able To Put It In Perspective

As embarrassing as it can be, giving a bad speech is really nothing more than an “off” performance. It doesn’t mean you are a terrible speaker or a bad person. It does not mean that you are a subpar employee or a poor leader. After all, we need to realize that bad speeches happen to good people. You need to remember to keep things in perspective and separate the person from the performance.

Take Time To Analyze What Went Wrong And What Went Right

After giving a bad speech, if you need to you can go ahead and wallow in disappointment for a day or two. After you are done, focus on studying what happened during your presentation so you can learn from the experience. This will be difficult. No matter how strong the temptation to avoid thinking about the speech again, you need to examine evidence to identify what went wrong. You need to review your speech in the form of video or audio. It’s easier to analyze your speech when you are able to watch or listen than to trust your memory. When we replay such a speech in our minds, we tend to blow our mistakes out of proportion and to be very hard on ourselves. Sadly, it’s hard for speakers to be objective.

You don’t want to stop with your analysis of what went wrong. When speakers get down on ourselves, we need to remember what went right. Look at your presentation and realize that a lot went well. You need to find the high notes and remember to repeat them next time. If there no recording of the speech was made, look to session evaluations or try to solicit feedback from a neutral audience member to analyze your presentation. Also, try to be specific with your observations. The more detail you can include, the more successful you will be with your plans for improving.

Troubleshoot The Speech That You Gave

After you identify what went wrong with your speech, take the time to analyze why it went wrong. All too often a lack of preparation is to blame. We need to assess ourselves by verifying how much time we actually spent preparing. Our goal should be to try to quantify the amount of time that we spent getting ready. Other times, things like psychological or situational factors may be the cause of our speech problem. A variety of factors could have influenced the outcome of your speech, including being distracted by a personal problem, speaking to a group that is larger than normal for you, not getting a good night’s sleep, skipping breakfast, having a cold or running late for the speech.

Create A Plan To Become Better

After you have identified all the factors that contributed to your lackluster performance, you need to come up with specific strategies to prevent them from happening again. Instead of saying that next time you will more carefully analyze the audience, define exactly what that means to you. For example, you could resolve to: read about the organization on their website at least two months before the presentation, especially the parts pertaining to the organization’s mission and its recent work. Also, read about the conference that you will be presenting at. Research things like recent news accounts written about the organization and its key members at least two months before the presentation. Make sure that you have a conversation with the event organizer at least two months before the presentation. Try to talk to at least four audience members about their needs and interests at least six weeks before the presentation.

Get The Courage To Get Back On Stage

Now that you have been able to identify what went wrong with your speech, why it happened and how you will go about preventing the same problems from occurring again, it’s time to heed the advice of this timeless axiom: when you fall off the horse, get right back on the saddle. Don’t allow one bad experience to paralyze you with fear. The best way for us to prevent this is to run, not walk, to the stage and do another speech. It is not necessary for you to repeat the same type of speech again or to speak in the same kind of situation.

The goal is to find a way to rebuild your confidence as a speaker. But even if it takes a series of baby steps to get you back to delivering speeches that’s okay. What is important is that you start taking those steps shortly after your disappointing presentation. The longer you wait, the steeper the climb will be.

What All Of This Means For You

Life is not perfect. We all make mistakes. As a speaker, we can very easily blow a speech. There are a lot of things that can go wrong, but in the end we all know when we have screwed up a speech. When this happens we are left feeling that we are a failure. We are not pleased with ourselves and we really don’t ever want to give another speech. What we need is a way to overcome this setback. We need a plan that will allow us to regain the courage that we’ll need in order to give another speech.

All speakers will make mistakes. We will give bad speeches. If you give a bad speech, you have to be able to put it into perspective. Once the speech is done, take some time to think about what you did correctly and what you did wrong. Once you know what you did wrong, take the time to look at what you did wrong and understand why you did it. Next, you have to create a plan to fix what you did wrong in your speech. Finally, you have to have the courage to get back up on the stage and do it all over again.

The good thing about delivering a speech poorly is that it can be a one-time event. Yes, you did a bad job of delivering a speech, but that might be the only time that that happens. You need to treat this as something that is in your past and you need to move on. By taking the time to understand what happened and coming up with way to prevent it from happening again, you can become a better speaker. Don’t let bad speeches stop you from speaking.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that you should try to give the same speech again for your next speech?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

All of a sudden you are there. You are standing in front of your next audience. The good news is that you know what you want to say – in fact you’ve been practicing it. However, do you know what your audience really wants to hear? Perhaps even more importantly while you give your speech are you going to be able to determine if what you are saying is what they want to be hearing? It turns out that as speakers, we have another job: we have to be able to read our audience.