Public Speaking: Handling Blunders

January 29th, 2009 by Frank Damelio

What to do when things go wrong public speaking?  We all make mistakes – especially those of us who take calculated risks.  Sometimes we fall flat on our face when we present.

As promised in my last blog, I will share with you my experience of going out on a limb and crashing to the ground.

I was public speaking at a networking event: our Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting.  I was asked to talk a bit about the power of persuasion; so I thought it would be fun to do three effects that illustrate how we can influence others.  In my experience, I hit these demonstrations 98% of the time, and they are impressive because they really depend on the interaction between me and my audience members.  

The first demo, which was an optical perception effect always works – no problem.  But the second, which I was influencing another person to “randomly” select a color, completely failed.  I understand why it happened, and I’m confident it won’t happen again . . . but, there I was before 80 of my peers with a demo gone awry.

It was quiet.  How do I handle this?

1) I reminded the audience that this was not a “trick” but real psychology at play.  

2) Then, I used the fact that I missed to INCREASE the intensity level.  I said to the audience, “now, there can be no option for failure on my next demonstration; in fact, if I fail I will breakdance right here at the center of the dance floor, because nobody is leaving here without being entertained.”  This broke the tension and created laughter.

Ultimately the final and most “impossible” demo worked (thank God).  I received an enthusiastic applause and as Shakespeare says “all is well that ends well.”

At the end of my presentation, a potential Chamber Member and national speaker approached me and asked to buy my CD on the Power of Persuasion.  That felt good.

Here is what I learned: Taking risks is important if you are going to grow, but putting the riskier material in the middle makes a great deal of sense.  Put your solid material at the beginning and end because that is what people remember most.

Whenever you fall on your face, get up, and if necessary make a quick acknowledgement, then move on as if nothing happened.   A blunder shows the audience that you are human, but how you handle it can make you even stronger than if the blunder had never occurred.  Use it to your advantage.

Handling public speaking blunders is never easy, just try to make it LOOK easy by keeping your composure and you’re audience will appreciate your poise.

p.s. Yes, had I missed the second demo, I would have doffed the coat and tie and provided old-school break dancing entertainment.

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3 Responses to “Public Speaking: Handling Blunders”

  1. Target Intellect Blog » Public Speaking to a Rude Audience Says:

    [...] a Winning TeamSales Success Share & Learn « Public Speaking at Networking Events Handling public speaking blunders [...]

  2. Laura Briere Says:

    You really have a great approach and attitude on things.

    “Those who succeed are those who are not afraid to fail.” – ME!

  3. Frank Damelio Says:

    Laura Briere – Your encouragement is appreciated – THANKS!

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