Public Speaking Disasters? Who died?

It’s only a disaster if someone gets killed isn’t it? I remember when one of my clients fell off the stage, but he wasn’t actually killed, so it was just an embarrassment that he handled well.  A matter for caution, yes; but also an opportunity to show the audience how a professional presenter handles those ‘slapstick’ moments with good grace and good humour. That’s the only rule isn’t it? An audience will pretty much forgive you anything unless you embarrass them.  And handle it well and they’ll like you’ remember you and admire you even more.

In all the fall over, wrong word, wind breaking, furniture smashing hilarity that I still call my career, 2 such moments stand out for me-

  1. The redecoration of a 5 star hotel- snapping my lovely fountain pen in my fingers during a keynote at a global conference in Miami in front of 700 salespeople. I left a ‘Jim’s head shaped hole’ in the spatter of blue black ink on the very expensive rear projection screen, and made it worse by trying to wipe it off, while the laughter died down, succeeding only in turning a large spatter into a huge smear…
  2. Over accommodating my audience to my own disadvantage- agreeing to do a conference in an American accent (I’m very English) because most of the audience were from South America and were used to hearing English spoken by a Yankee doodle dandy. After one hour my throat was sore, after 2 days I sounded like Lee Marvin (I know he’s been dead for 20 years, but it was that bad). And even worse, the whole conference was being videoed and my clients still take great delight in showing it to me now.

Hardly dangerous, but it’s the kind of thing that we’ll all have to deal with.  My advice?  Laugh, and people will love you for it.  Cry, and people will feel terrible, so laugh even if you feel like crying.

Jim Harvey

Jim Harvey

Managing Director at The Message Business
Jim is the MD of The Message Business, a company which helps FTSE 100 companies to sell themselves, and their products better. Speech writer, Prezi trainer and designer, coach and consultant, Jim also finds time to be a proud father and husband.
Jim Harvey
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


To Top