• Taken from an article by Marjorie Saulson

3 Tips for Handling Public Speaking Goofs

Updated: Apr 7


When you speak in front of an audience, goog-ups are bound to happen. Well handled goof-ups can make your remarks even more powerful, memorable and can make you more relatable.

But, you are probably thinking, that is easier said than done. In the heat of the moment, one can sometimes freeze, like a deer in headlights. We wonder how the heck to dig ourselves out of that particular verbal hole in the ground (where we might actually want to bury our head in the sand if it were possible).

Here Are a Few Strategies You Might Find Helpful:

FIRST: Forgive yourself (preferably in advance) for being human

That’s a pretty big stretch for some of us, especially those of us who are perfectionists (guilty as charged). The sad truth is that none of us is perfect, and the happy truth is that everyone in your audience knows it.

People are usually a lot less shocked by a speaker goofing up than the speaker is about having done it. Therefore, if you then carry on after the goof; people are actually relieved for you, and even more relieved that you are up there instead of them.

SECOND: Use a physical gesture to acknowledge the goof

It is in no way necessary to verbally apologize for a goof; unless, of course, you inadvertently insult someone or use inappropriate language. A simple shrug of the shoulders, along with a quizzical I can’t believe I said that expression on your face, is all you may need to do before continuing on with your message.

THIRD: If possible, incorporate the goof into your speech

If you can actually come up with some way, particularly a humorous way, to include the goof in your remarks; for example, if you can relate it to some point you wish to make, your speech will become much more memorable than it would have been otherwise.

The four unadvertised bonuses of public speaking goofs, if you can learn to handle them well, are that:

(1) Knowing you don’t have to do it perfectly to do it well, you will become much more comfortable giving speeches;

(2) People will tend to pay better attention after you have goofed;

(3) You will more effectively impress your audience with your expertise and knowledge of the subject (not to mention your unflappable demeanor); and

(4) You will become much more relatable to your audience as a person, and thus more likely to accomplish the goals you set for yourself in giving the speech in the first place.

Marjorie Saulson is the owner of Vibrant Vocal Power

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