What To Do When Everything Goes Wrong During A Speech

by drjim on June 12, 2012

You can't repair things that have happened, you just need to move on

You can’t repair things that have happened, you just need to move on

One of the reasons that I love public speaking so much is that it gives me a thrill every time I stand up in front of an audience. The big question is where does this thrill come from? I believe that at least in part it comes from the simple fact that there is a lot of risk involved in giving a speech – many, many things can go wrong. You can never prevent anything from going wrong, but you can learn how to deal with them so that your speech can go on…

Attack Of The Laptops

How rude is that? As you stand in front of your audience you just might notice that it sure looks like everyone is hunkered down in front of their laptops typing away. Don’t they know about the importance of public speaking? How are they going to be able to hear and understand the words of wisdom that you are going to be sharing with them if they are working on email? I don’t care how good their listening skills are, they won’t be able to hear you if they don’t pay attention to you.

Look, there are some things in this life that we can control and this is not one of them. If your audience is really committed to making progress on getting through their overflowing email inbox during your speech, then you aren’t going to be able to convince them to do otherwise.

However, you might be able to pick off those members of your audience who aren’t quite sure what they want to do. Making an announcement along the lines of “May I request that I have two minutes of your attention” at the start of your speech will often shame these people into closing their laptops and paying attention to you. The quality of your speech will determine if they keep paying attention or if they open their laptops again…

Questions With No Answers

This has to be every speaker’s nightmare. You’ve just gotten done giving a speech using your best presentation tips in which you presented yourself as being so knowledgeable on the topic that you were able to give a speech on it and now somebody has asked you an impossible question.

You have no idea how to answer a question like this. What should you do? First off, you need to be honest with the person who asked the question and your audience: say “I don’t’ know”. Do not try to fake an answer – you’ll be quickly seen through.

Now you’ve got a couple of choices on what to do. Tell the person that you’ll get back to them. Ask them to email their question to you so that you can research it. Perhaps this would be a good time to ask your audience if they might have an answer to the question.

Can You Hear Me?

I’d like to say that in our modern solid state world, technical problems never happen. However, that would not be true. One of the biggest problems that we speakers have to deal with is when the microphone that we’re using breaks. It might either stop working or it might start to have feedback or fade in and out.

When this happens, your audience is going to quickly notice and won’t be happy about it. What you need to do is to stop talking. Unless you have some magic technical skills, this is the time that you need to get professional technical help to step up and deal with this problem.

While the microphone is being worked on, you have a couple of choices as to what you want to do. One choice is to remain quiet. Another, assuming that the room is not too big, is step up and give your speech without the use of a microphone. When you do this you might be amazed at just how quiet the room becomes as everyone quiets down so that they can hear what you have to say.

What All Of This Means For You

As speakers, we need to understand that we are going to be giving our speeches in a world that we do not fully control. What this means is that there is a good chance that things will happen to us during a speech that are out of our control. One of the benefits of public speaking is that we can learn how to deal with them.

Talking to modern audiences comes with its own set of problems. As speakers we need to know how to handle situations where our audience is looking at their laptops and not us. Additionally we need to know how to deal with impossible questions when we get asked them. Finally, equipment such as the microphone can fail on us and when that happens we need to be ready to deal with the moment.

We might run the world some day and won’t have to worry about real-world problems like the ones that we’ve talked about. However, until that day comes, use the techniques that I’ve shared with you to prevent events from sabotaging your speech and instead go on to deliver a speech that everyone will remember for all the right reasons.

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

Question For You: If you discover that your audience is looking at their electronic devices, how forceful do you think you can be in getting them to put their devices away and focus on you?

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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 www.Toastmasters.org. 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

Perhaps saying that it’s “the end of the world” is a bit overly dramatic; however, if you are giving a speech and things start to go wrong for you it sure can seem like it’s the end of the world. We live in a complex world in which it is entirely possible that things can and will go wrong. We don’t have the ability to prevent things from going wrong, but we do have control over how we react when it happens. Perhaps we should talk about some presentation tips for what you need to do in order to be prepared for some all too common events.

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