A recent article from the Wall Street Journal provides great advice for those who speak to groups, but may not be comfortable doing so. Sometimes, when things don’t go as planned—as often happens— panic may occur. Here are some of their suggested solutions for such occasions. (Also, see our previous advice on this topic: “Get Over Your Fear of Presenting With These Helpful Tips.”)
Problem | Brain freeze. You completely forget what you planned to say.
Solution | Camouflage your confusion by pausing to take a deep breath or a sip of water while you recall main points.
Problem | Your joke falls flat.
Solution | Don’t dwell on it, move on and apologize to the host afterward if needed. If people are so offended that the room falls silent, apologize quickly and sincerely.
Problem | You lose your notes.
Solution | Try to recall your beginning, ending and main points in between.
Problem | You notice a wardrobe malfunction on stage (mismatched shoes, zipper down)
Solution | Fix it quickly. If the audience has noticed, use humor to weave the misstep into your talk.
Problem | You have pre-presentation fear.
Solution | Arrive early, allowing one or two hours to detect and fix problems with audio or video gear or lost notes. Take a minute before speaking to check your appearance in a mirror and make sure your clothing is zipped and clean.
Problem | You have stage fright.
Solution | Take a quiet moment to think about your stress in a positive way. People who say, “I am excited” before making a two-minute speech are more likely to be rated by listeners as persuasive, confident and competent, compared to people who say, “I am calm,” according to 2014 Harvard Business School study of 140 people.
If all else fails, take this additional advice (from our own personal experience):
Say, “Let me tell you a story.” Then tell the audience a real-life example of something that happened to you related to the topic of your presentation.