How Do You Recover After a Setback When Public Speaking by Peter Dhu

One of the things that you can guarantee when public speaking, training, or running workshops, is that some things will go wrong. Remember the saying, “stuff does happen”.

As a professional speaker and trainer, we have a saying, “the show must go on no matter what”.  So how do you recover from these setbacks and unexpected events when they occur and continue presenting?

How to recover after a setback when public speaking

In this article, I am going to share some common setbacks that can occur and what you can do to recover. 

Power outage with face-to-face events

When the power goes out, it can be annoying and you might think you cannot continue presenting, but you must carry on.

Some of the things you can do to continue your presentation are to open the curtains and allow natural light in. Consider using a whiteboard or flipchart or other manual graphic instead of the PowerPoint slides. It is also important to know your content well so that you don’t need to refer to your PowerPoint slides and you can carry on regardless. Often the power is restored and then you can revert back to any PowerPoint slides or videos that you feel you must show.

Power Outage during a Virtual Public Speaking Event

Delivering a workshop or any event virtually can be difficult at the best of times. And having a power outage or internet drop out mid-presentation can be even more stressful. 

I always make sure that my laptop and phone or internet dongle are fully charged. I also have a window and natural light in front of me, so if my studio lights go out, I can use the natural light streaming in.

Doing this will allow you to continue presenting virtually even when the power goes out. My laptop will continue working for about 7 hours and my internet will switch from modem to phone data. As a result, your audience will only notice that you have had a minor complication and that your recovery was efficient and seamless. 

Your mind goes blank

This is one of the worst nightmares for all public speakers. No matter how much you practice and prepare before public speaking presentations, sometimes your mind goes blank.

When this happens, you do not need to mention to your audience that you lost your way or have had a blank. It is important that you stay relaxed and breathe so you can go to your notes if necessary. You can always ask your audience to do a quick exercise or have a discussion. This will give you time to get back on track, check your notes or remember what you were going to say next. You can also pause and have a sip of water.

As Michael Grinder says, “Recovery is more important than perfection.”

You get a difficult question

During the question-and-answer part of your presentation, you can’t really control what your audience will ask you. In every presentation, you can expect one question that is awkward, unexpected or difficult to answer. 

It is important that you listen carefully to the question and think before you answer. “Fake it until you make it” does not apply to this situation. It is better to be honest to your audience, and say that the question is great and that you will get back to them with an appropriate answer rather than making an answer up on the spot.

You run out of time (maybe the speaker before you spoke for too long)

When you are invited to speak at a conference with other public speakers, it is highly likely that you cannot control time. Try to practice at home and time yourself to see if you will exceed the allotted time for yourself. 

Instead of using slides, simply speak. You’ll be able to make alterations more quickly and won’t feel pressured to show every slide. Once you’ve finished speaking for a while, you can initiate a discussion with the audience. Always end by reiterating and emphasizing your take-home message.

You can’t connect to the audio-visual equipment during a public speaking presentation

Sometimes technology isn’t your best friend, and you cannot connect to the data projector or flatscreen TV. Some organisations have complicated firewalls or want you to use Clickshare or chrome cast and it just does not work.

When this happens, make sure you can revert to the old-fashioned tools of the whiteboard and the flipchart. And I often travel with my own data projector that I can also use if their equipment does not connect.

This also applies to audio, if you have any video or music that you want people to hear. On occasions, the audio will not play through the venue’s loud speakers, and I always carry a small Bluetooth boombox just in case.

Final point

A lot of things can happen in any presentation. Setbacks are inevitable. But you can be prepared so that you can continue presenting even with setbacks. Remember that the key to recovering is to be prepared and have a backup plan for all of these possible events. It is not being perfect that matters, but rather the recovery that matters. And as they say, the show must go on.

Interested in improving your public speaking skills? Join Peter at the Winning Presentation Skills on October 23rd in Perth. Limited seats available, so register now!

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