How to power on when when you make a mistake during your presentation.

You call the client's boss Wendy when her name is actually Caroline. You knock over a glass of water, spilling it all over the boardroom table. You show up 5 minutes late because you went to the wrong boardroom. You trip over the projector cord and fall during your presentation. 

The list of potential mistakes that could happen during a presentation are endless and although these scenarios have the potential to become awkward and embarrassing, they don't have to be.

Making a mistake is not what matters, it's what you do next that will make all the difference to your audience. Mistakes happen, and your audience is definitely not expecting you to be perfect, but they are expecting you to pick yourself up and power on if something does go wrong.

Do that, and you'll look like the pro you are.   

Don't believe us? 

  • Here's Lady Gaga powering through the final notes of "You and I" while falling off a piano

  • Here's Beyonce powering through "Halo" while her hair get's stuck in a fan

  • Here's Taylor Swift powering through her choreography after her back up dancer takes her out.

World class performers make mistakes...and they also make world class recoveries. Here are a few simple strategies you can use to quickly recover when things suddenly go south: 

Keep it light hearted: Try making light of the situation, and not take it too seriously (assuming it's actually not that serious). Making an appropriate joke or laughing it off will put everyone at ease knowing you're calm, cool and collected.

Move on quickly: By moving on quickly, you signal to the audience that it happened, it was no big deal and you're already over it (which means they will be too). 

Don't apologize: Remember, mistakes are OK and the only thing that can make it worse/even more awkward is profusely apologizing for something that was completely unintentional. Instead, try thanking the people who might have helped you. For example, you could say: 

  • "Thanks for correcting me, Caroline"

  • "Thanks for helping me clean up the water"

  • "Thanks for your patience while I found my way to the boardroom"

  • "Thanks for helping me untangle myself from the projector cord"

Again, assuming it wasn't that serious, skip the apology and don't look back.

Avoid reminding the audience it happened: For some reason, humans like to re-hash mistakes/embarrassing moments in the hopes that talking about it will provide and explanation or justification as to why it happened. But all this does, is remind the audience that it happened in the first place! Although it might be tempting, avoid bringing it up after you've moved on. After all, you're a pro and it's already ancient history.

So, the next time you make a mistake during a presentation, call, meeting or speech, instead of apologizing and getting flustered - keep calm and power on

After all...