Be an Adaptable Speaker
If you want to appear professional and confident in your
presentations, don’t let little things bother you such as an
out-of-sync slide, a mispronounced word, or a minor interruption.
Handling unexpected problems draws your audience closer to you
and inspires confidence in you. Here
are some examples of adaptability.
- You keep calm after you forget what comes next.
Don’t panic—simply go back and summarize what you have
said so far. Usually,
you will remember. If
you don’t, say, “Just a minute.
I got lost.” Take a few seconds; find your place, and then
- You know what is appropriate dress for the occasion.
It’s always better to overdress than underdress.
However, I unintentionally carried this to an extreme once.
Some years ago I got mixed up on the type of occasion and
showed up for a speech in a neighboring state dressed in a tuxedo;
no one else even had a tie. That
occasion was “casual night,” the next night was formal.
I didn’t let it bother me.
I took a few good natured jabs in stride, made a joke of it
by saying “this is the way we always dress in Alabama when we go
to a barbeque,” took off my coat and tie and did gave my speech..
By the way, this faux pas would not be nearly as serious as
showing up casual when the audience is in formal attire.
- When someone asks you a question for which you don’t know the
answer, don’t step away.
Instead, confidently and slowly take a step toward them.
This gives you time to think and communicates that you are
pleased they asked the question.
Then either answer it or if you can’t, just say,” Good
question. I don’t
have a good answer, but I’ll find out and get back to you.”
Then make certain you do.
By the way, don’t say, “I’m glad you asked that
question,” when you really wish they had not asked it.
It comes across as phony because it is.
- When a cell phone rings you don’t act perturbed, make a wise
crack, or embarrass the person.
He probably feels bad enough already.
If he doesn’t, your comment won’t register with him
anyway. And besides,
others in the audience will think less of you if you comment.
Just continue as if it doesn’t bother you.
You will win points from your audience.
- The projector quits and you can’t show your PowerPoint
slides, but you have a contingency plan.
If you are at a good spot for a break, stop and regroup.
If not, press on.
The bottom line is to be
listener-centered—not message-centered or self-centered, but
implies adaptability. And your adaptability as presenter to your audience will go a
long way toward establishing your credibility.
For more good
advice about presentations, see my latest book,