Bouncing Back

present with people Feb 26, 2024
Navigating Mistakes in Public Speaking Like a Pro




I love to use illustrations when I speak.

I think using every ounce of creative energy is something every speaker must do.

During one presentation, I was using a full length mirror as an illustration. I picked up a baseball and proceeded to throw it at the mirror. My plan was to demonstrate what hateful words can do to someone and show how powerful they can be. The mirror was supposed to shatter, just like how hateful words break our inner world.

Well, I must have purchased the most unbreakable mirror because the baseball just bounced right off the mirror. Yes, I threw it very hard and I tried two other times! It would not break!

Have you ever been there? You make a giant mistake during your presentation and now you’re wondering how to move forward?

Mistakes happen.

Public speaking is an art that requires skill, confidence, and resilience.

Even the most seasoned speakers make mistakes during their presentations. Whether it's stumbling over words, forgetting a crucial point or facing technical difficulties, handling these hiccups gracefully is key to maintaining your credibility and leaving a lasting impression.




Here are a few tips to recover from mistakes when they happen during your presentation.

  1. Stay Calm and Composed

The moment you realize you've made a mistake, it's crucial to maintain your composure. Panicking will only make the mistake bigger and distract both you and your audience. Take a deep breath, pause for a moment, and gather your thoughts. Remember, everyone makes mistakes; it's how you handle them that sets you apart.

  1. Acknowledge the Mistake

Don't shy away from addressing the mistake. Acknowledge it with grace and honesty. A simple, "I made a mistake there, let me clarify," can break the tension and humanize your presentation. Audiences appreciate authenticity, and owning up to your mistake demonstrates transparency.

  1. Partner with Humor

Humor can be a powerful tool to diffuse tension and redirect the focus of your audience. Share a relevant story or make a light-hearted comment about the mistake. A well-timed joke can not only lighten the mood but also make you more relatable to your audience. Just be mindful of the context and ensure your humor aligns with your presentation.

  1. Focus on the Key Points 

If the mistake has caused a disruption in your flow, take a moment to revisit and reiterate the key points of your presentation. This not only reinforces your main message but also helps you regain control of what’s happening.

  1. Close the Story Loop

Towards the end of your presentation, bring back the mistake (if it was appropriate) and use that to close the story loop. When my mirror illustration completely bombed, towards the end of my presentation, I added the line: ‘Sometimes you just have to bounce back’ and I looked at the mirror. The audience smiled and loved it.

  1. Learn and Improve

After the presentation, take the time to reflect on what went wrong and why. Use the experience as a learning opportunity to identify areas for improvement. Whether it's refining your preparation process, practicing more or incorporating feedback, continuous improvement is key to becoming a more polished and resilient speaker.

In the world of public speaking and presentations, mistakes are inevitable. They’re going to happen. But, how you recover from those mistakes can make all the difference in the success of your presentation. Stay calm, acknowledge the error, and use humor and visual aids to redirect attention. Most importantly, view each mistake as a stepping stone for growth and improvement.

By embracing the inevitability of errors and responding with grace, you'll not only recover smoothly but also enhance your skills as a communicator.


By Jason Raitz - President, Speak with People

Jason is a keynote speaker and trainer who ignites laughter, inspires growth, and transforms communication skills from stages all across the country.