Real World Speaking Challenges: Things You Can’t Control

It can be a real challenge giving a speech in a tent
It can be a real challenge giving a speech in a tent
Image Credit: Stuart Heath

As speakers, we know about the importance of public speaking and would like every speech that we give to be perfect! We want to deliver a great speech in a fantastic setting to a receptive audience. How hard could that be? Well, it turns out that it can be quite difficult! I recently had a chance to deliver a speech under some pretty harsh conditions and I thought that I might share with you how it all turned out…

It’s All About The Tent

So where to start my story? Perhaps the best place is to describe to you where I actually ended up delivering my speech. I had been told that so many people had signed up to hear my speech that the location had been moved. I was attending a convention that was being held at a hotel. I’ve given many speeches in hotel ballrooms, so this change of locations didn’t really strike me as being strange. However, that was before I discovered where it was going to be held.

It turns out that this hotel was undergoing some major renovations. What this meant is that the ballrooms that they normally used for speeches like mine were temporarily not available. Instead, I would be giving my speech in a tent that was located outside on the hotel grounds. Hmm, this was going to be a different experience for me.

So I have nothing against tents. The acoustics of a tent don’t help you when you are giving a speech that has no microphone. However, things got just a bit more difficult. There was a strong wind the day that I was giving my speech. This meant that the entire tent kept getting picked up and put down while I gave my speech. This not only created a lot of background noise that I had to deal with, but it also made my audience very, very nervous!

The Missing Audience

What two things does it take to deliver a speech? Well, one of them is for you to have a speech to give and the other is to have an audience to listen to your speech. I certainly had a speech that had rehearsed, but when it came time for me to give my speech I had no audience. I mean there was not one warm body sitting in the chairs that had been put out for my speech. Hmm, something had gone wrong here.

As I waited for someone, anyone, to show up, I chatted with the A/V guys who had set the site up. We both become very curious that there was nobody there. I had been told that at least 30 people had signed up to hear my speech. As we looked out the clear plastic windows on the side of the tent, we saw people streaming by the tent heading off to another location. I started to get a sinking feeling.

I told one of the two A/V guys to go follow the people that we saw. He did and when he got to the room where they were all sitting, he asked them what speech they were expecting to hear – it was, of course, mine. He then told them they were all in the wrong room. They then trooped back to my room and I got started – 15 minutes late!

Various Technical Issues

So already this speech had had more than its fair share of technical challenges. But there were more to come! I generally travel with a “slide clicker”. This is a device that you slide into a laptop’s USB port and as you wander around the room you can click the remote control that you’re holding and your PowerPoint slides will advance. It’s a neat tool, but I had somehow left mine at home.

I needed to come up with a solution to this oversight. If I didn’t then I would have to revisit my laptop every time I wanted to move on to another slide and that would crimp my speaking style.

What I did was to recruit a member of my audience. I asked her to be my “special assistant” and to press the space bar on my laptop every time I asked her to do so. I was thrilled when she agreed to do so. Problem solved!

What All Of This Means For Yourself

Creating and delivering a speech is tough work. It turns out that on top of this difficult task of providing our audience with the benefits of public speaking, there can be a number of other things that conspire to make giving a great speech even harder to do. I just gave a speech where the deck was stacked against me…

The speech was delivered in a tent. That would not have been a big deal if the wind had not been howling while I was speaking. I had to speak louder and pause more in order to keep my audience’s attention. My audience went to the wrong location and that meant that we started late and I had less time to talk. Finally, I had forgotten my slide clicker and ended up having to recruit a volunteer to advance my slides.

The most important piece of advice that I can pass on to you from this little adventure of mine is that you must always keep moving forward. There will always be things that happen during a speech that could derail it; don’t let this happen. When things happen, roll with it and deliver the best speech that you possibly can!

Here is a video of this presentation if you care to see it:

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

Question For You: Is there anything that you can do after a less-than-perfect speech that will help your audience to remember your message?

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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

Time, time, time – where has all of our time gone? When we’ve been asked to give a speech, there are a number of things that we can control. We control our content, we try to control our introduction, and we can control a Q&A session. However, the one thing that we can’t control is how much time we have to give our speech. This is where we can all use some help.