I confess that I take comfort in others’ misfortunes.
It’s a habit that goes all the way back to the day I took the test for my driver’s license. The teenage girl in front of me became hopelessly stuck while trying to navigate the three-point turn. Suddenly my nerves disappeared. She was driving a coupe with an automatic transmission, and I knew that I could do no worse driving Mom’s station wagon with a stick shift.
It’s natural to be a bit nervous that something will go wrong when you have to deliver a presentation. Take comfort by knowing that at least you aren’t the speaker who:
- Had to borrow clothes. At one conference I saw a morning speaker begin her remarks by profusely thanking her colleagues for the clothes on her back. The speaker had arrived the night before her presentation, but her luggage didn’t. A great rule for business travelers: Always wear clothes that would be appropriate for the event you are attending, just in case your luggage is lost and the stores aren’t open.
- Didn’t know where he was. Years ago I heard an obviously exhausted political candidate tell the residents of Martinsburg, W.Va., that he was happy to be in “Martinsville.” That certainly didn’t win him any votes. Always arrive early and well-rested for your speech.
- Fell off the podium. I’ve only seen this on America’s Funniest Videos, not in person, but there are plenty of videos online of professional performers falling on or off the stage, from Kelsey Grammer to Lady Gaga. Take the time to become accustomed to the podium before your presentation. Better yet: Move off the stage and walk among the audience when you speak. That’s not only safer but also a better way to engage the audience.
- Forgot a key point. Nobody is going to forget Rick Perry’s debate mistake anytime soon. But he’s not alone in drawing a blank in front of a microphone. I once attended a funeral where the minister paused and had to look in the casket to remind himself who the dearly departed was. Even if you are confident that you know your speech forward and back, jot down the essential points.
- Suffered an embarrassing technical glitch. What’s the worst thing that could happen? One presenter told me that the first time she used a wireless microphone she forgot to turn it off during the break, during which she went to the bathroom. If she could survive that situation with grace and good humor, surely you can handle anything that might happen when you’re speaking.
What’s the most embarrassing presentation moment you’ve seen?
The BMG blogs will be back to our normal posting schedule next week, but until then, be sure to check out these other great posts in celebration of Thanksgiving:
- “5 things for which every organized executive can be grateful” on The Organized Executive’s Blog
- “5 employees to thank your lucky stars for” on the Bud to Boss Blog
- “Express gratitude year-round” on Workplace Survival
- “The Nitpickers’ Thanksgiving list” on Nitpickers’ Nook