Recover from mistakes and get back on track

By Mary Schrack

Glossophobia. The fear of public speaking. We’ve all had the symptoms before: sweaty palms, shaky hands and a racing heart. For most of us, it’s not public speaking that has us filled with anxiety. What we’re really afraid of is looking unprofessional, unprepared or stupid in front of people, especially our peers.

Everyone makes mistakes, but the best public speakers know how to quickly recover and move on. Read on to learn how to overcome these mistakes:

  • Slurring or mispronouncing a word. Everybody stumbles over a word occasionally. If you do, simply repeat the word and finish your sentence. Don’t call attention to the mistake by making a joke or by saying “Excuse me.” Be sure to speak slowly and enunciate your words.
  • Saying something inappropriate. Allowing an obscenity to slip out is unacceptable. However, it can happen to the best of us. Offer a quick “Pardon my language” or “I apologize for saying that” and move on. 
  • Presenting inaccurate information. You didn’t double-check a fact you found on the Web or you responded to a question you didn’t know the answer to, and an audience member corrects you. Thank the person for the correction, restate it so the audience can hear it and move to your next point.
  • Using too many fillers. It’s easy to slip into lazy speech filled with “uhs” and “likes,” especially when you’re nervous. If you feel yourself using fillers, take a breath, slow down, and think about what you’re saying.
  • Reading from your notes or slides. The temptation to look is strong, especially if you’re not feeling confident. Think of the presentation more as a conversation; the words will flow easier and you won’t feel the need to read from your notes.

What was your most embarrassing mistake? How did you recover? What did you learn?

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