Handling Presentation Mistakes

Handling presentation mistakes can be difficult, even for professional speakers, if you’re not prepared. My friend Karin (pronounced CARR-in) Wiberg recently blogged about lessons learned from speakers. Calling Karin a friend seems to be a bit understated. She is also a fantastic editor (the moving force behind Presentation Sin!), business motivator, analyst/strategist, and a speaker herself.  We are both members of a group in the RTP area of North Carolina who meet monthly to challenge, encourage, and learn from each other about the profession of speaking.

Karin recently wrote a blog entry on Avoiding the Oops: 7 Speaking Tips from the Pros.  As I read her report on our recent meeting, I found three lessons we can learn about handling presentation mistakes from her lessons about speaking. Meta-lessons, perhaps.

My Meta-lessons for Handling Presentation Mistakes

First, know that mistakes are inevitable.

We’re human, and mistakes happen, even to professionals (anyone else watching the World Series?  I grew up in Houston and one of my earliest memories in the Astrodome made me an Astros fan for life.  Men whose only job in the world is to catch or throw can still fail to do either well). The question is not if, but when.  We should not judge others, much less ourselves, on the existence of errors, but rather on the effort and preparation put in to lessen their chance and impact and handling presentation mistakes. They will still occur.

Second, mistakes are useless and harmful unless we learn from them.

While we should be gracious and quick to forgive people because of point #1 above, we should also hold ourselves accountable for our errors.  Failure is a fine teacher on the path to success.  I resisted the urge to include a pithy quote extracted from the Internet, because it’ll be far more meaningful for you to look one up yourself.  Consider that a lesson learned from my own current events (my ability to do calculus is in no way related to my son’s ability to do calculus.  He has to do it himself.)

Third, have a tribe of companions that share your journey and make you better.

Having a tribe not only smooths the road of pain that errors bring but also makes you better by sharing the journey, challenging you to be better, and showing you the way when motivation and doubt collide.  I am grateful for those who have joined and spurred me on in my journey.  I also have a new vision for how I can be a catalyst to those in my path in my remaining time on the planet.  You’ll hear more about that in an upcoming newsletter.  Part of this is a new habit I’m cultivating to call people in my network when I think they have expertise or advice I can use.  I have been blessed by their willingness and encouragement at least as much as by the truth they share.

Our speaker tribe is called PRiSM – the Professionals in Speaking Mastermind.  It is the brainchild of fellow speaker and customer experience guru Stan Phelps, who has lived his philosophy of lagniappe by giving me (and I presume many others in our group), personal and tangible advice to make me better.  I am thankful for my friends, not because I need more personal relationships, but because of what we share and can do together.

PRiSM is having their first (likely/hopefully annual) Speaker Showcase coming up November 30, 2017.  I am fortunate enough to be one of the speakers at the event.  It’s free, and you’ll meet some of our tribe, be entertained and inspired, and learn something yourself that day.  Well worth your time.

Sign up to attend the PRiSM Speaker Showcase.https://prismspeakers.com/

Who are you hanging out with that can make you better?

On the road:

  • I start November with a rather lengthy road trip, stopping in three states in three time zones. In addition to working with and speaking to audiences, I will learn from these trips – and the mistakes I am sure to make. Look for THOSE lessons in this space in the future!
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This article was published in the November 2017 edition of our monthly speaking tips email, Communication Matters. Have speaking tips like these delivered straight to your inbox every month. Sign up today and receive our FREE download, “Twelve Tips that will Save You from Making a Bad Presentation.”  You can unsubscribe at any time.