When Public Speaking, The Show Must Go On – By Peter Dhu

We have all heard the saying that the show must go on. In public speaking this refers to carrying on regardless of any mishaps or unforeseen barriers. Common mishaps in public speaking include running out of time, audio visual equipment not working, falling off stages, delivering the wrong talk to the wrong audience, no one laughing at your jokes, clothing malfunctions and losing your voice (to name a few). But when these mishaps occur, as a public speaker, you need to continue regardless of what has happened.

I have recently been speaking at a couple of conventions in Manila. One of the key components of my presentation is a short video clip. The video comes from an old VHS tape from around 1988. Sometimes when I play the video, it doesn’t work. Sometimes the image plays with no sound and sometimes sound comes out with no image.  Although the video is embedded in my powerpoint presentation and always works for me, it sometimes doesn’t like the big fancy conference or seminar systems.

At this recent Manila convention, the video played but without any sound and I am left standing there wondering what went wrong. But the show must go on. You can allow the audio-visual team a few seconds to try and sort it out but if the video doesn’t work, the audience of two hundred and fifty people are still waiting for you to deliver your content. So, here are some tips for you when you are faced with a similar situation and the show must go on.

  • Be ready with your Plan B

What’s your plan B should an audio visual not work, should a prop not work, or when your gag or a joke that worked in a previous audience not work the right way in your current presentation?  Plan B is what you use to recover, to move on, an alternative way of demonstrating your message. Plan B is when you deliver your 30 minute presentation in 20 minutes because the speaker before you went over time.

  • Learn to adapt

On that day that my video didn’t work correctly, I just moved on and described the scene in the video and what the video was going to show and then went on to explain the key learnings that were to come from the video. Adaptability and flexibility are crucial when public speaking and they allow you to go on.

  • Stay calm under pressure

In public speaking, it’s very important that we’re able to recover on stage seamlessly and confidently. You have to learn how to remain calm while under fire. So while I was panicking and inwardly cursing the situation, I remained calm, smiled and kept my composure. People said that the video not working did not detract from my presentation and that I handled it well. There’s no point taking it out on the audio-visual team and the show must go on.

These mishaps can and do happen from time to time when public speaking. Even if you test your audio-visual materials days or hours before your presentation, problems can still arise. I tested mine in the morning at 6.30 am before the event and again during the lunch break – both times the video worked. But sometimes speakers before you come in and they want different settings, or they use a different software and program. And when it was my turn to present, the settings have changed and it didn’t run. But in public speaking, the show must go on.

If you want to learn more about public speaking and presentations, I have an upcoming workshop on Winning Presentation Skills in Karratha on 15 October and in Darwin on 22 October.

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