Mistakes can happen, no matter how much practice you put into your
On Feb. 26, the Academy Awards had a major mishap in the final minutes of
its live broadcast. While presenting the Oscar for the Best Picture
category (the biggest award of the night), actors Faye Dunaway and Warren
Beatty announced incorrectly that "La La Land" had won.
In the hectic moments that followed, a producer for "La La Land" held up
the correct envelope that showed the Oscar going to "Moonlight" instead.
You can watch it play out in the video below.
Here are some ways to recover from a major mess-up.
1. Own up. Consider Steve Harvey's infamous 2015 Miss
Universe crowning. As happened at the Oscars, Harvey read off the wrong
name of the next Miss Universe. He quickly owned up to his mistake and
corrected it. During your presentation, if you realize you have confused
information from your deck or lost your place, 'fess up and move forward.
Acknowledge that you must clarify your point; then, thoroughly explain the
information before continuing.
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2. Don't beat yourself up. Too often when we make
mistakes, we make comments such as, "How stupid of me," or "How could I
forget?" Avoid making such comments; you are the expert, so don't allow the
audience to think differently. Instead,
rephrase negative comments
to something positive, such as, "I am so excited to tell you more about my
product that I got ahead of myself; let me step back." You might also use
the following trick to remind where you were going. Say, "Let's recap: We
talked about X which was this, and we talked about Y which was that. Which
brings us to Z." This tactic may also help your audience more fully
understand your points—while helping you get back on track.
3. Keep calm, and carry on. This might be difficult, but
try your best. When things are not going as planned, we tend to let our
nerves take over. If you are suffering through a technical problem,
remember to smile and take deep breaths while the issue gets resolved. This
moment could also become a great way to engage your audience with a few
jokes or stories or other icebreakers.
We all make mistakes; ideally, we learn from them. So if you run into a
major presentation mess-up, try the guidelines above to recover.
A version of this article originally appeared on the
Ethos 3 blog.