Presentation foul-up? Try these methods to recover

Sometimes it’s the equipment; sometimes it’s ‘operator error’ (meaning you). Either way, you have to pull up your socks and keep your audience on your side. Here are some guidelines.

Mistakes can happen, no matter how much practice you put into your presentation.

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.

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.

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