There you are, in front of your audience, and you make what feels like a big mistake. What now?
The fear of mistakes – and the humiliation after making one – can derail a presentation much more than the mistake, itself. Instead of letting mistakes get in your way, think of them as an opportunity to connect with your audience.
We might admire a perfect presenter (if one even exists), but we also have trouble seeing ourselves in them. The pratfall effect tells us that when competent people make mistakes, it increases their likability. So stop targeting perfection! Instead, focus on showing confidence through your slip-ups, and making mistakes can actually be more effective than a flawless presentation. That’s great news!
Here are three easy steps to calm presentation nerves and boost your likability:
1. Pause. Give yourself the time to assess your slip-up’s impact on your listeners, rather than its impact on you. Do they look uncomfortable or confused? Are they laughing or gasping? If not, continue on. If so, laugh with them, and then move on.
2. Address the mistake head-on. Often, this means making a little fun of yourself. Your audience won’t take it too seriously if you don’t. A simple, “Oops, I meant _____,” will allow you and your audience to move on. If your error is more significant, apologize sincerely, and continue. Don’t let your mistake become the elephant in the room.
3. Maintain confident behaviors. Stand up straight, keep your face light, gesture big, and keep your vocal energy strong. Successful self-deprecation relies on confidence—otherwise your audience will worry about you. They’ll look to your behaviors to decide how to react, so lead the way.
Early in my career at Decker, I tripped over a tripod and fell flat on my face. All the heads in the room swiveled my direction, showing a mix of horror and concern. I wanted to disappear, but instead I took a bow with a big smile. Next time you flub, can you do the same?
Mistakes are an opportunity to connect. The next time you slip up in a presentation, take a moment, address it with humor, and push out confident behaviors. You’ll come across as a likable leader and connect better with your audience.
Own your mistakes – don’t let them own you!