Oops, I Misspoke During My Presentation – Now What?

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A client emailed me about one point I wrote in my blog two weeks ago, How to Do Impromptu Presentations Well, asking for more insight. In that blog, I wrote “If you realize that you misspoke about something, take a pause, and correct yourself. Since the presentation is the spur of the moment, no one is expecting anything rehearsed or perfect.” He asked me what to do if you misspoke and the presentation was planned and rehearsed. So I this is what I told him to do if he misspoke ever misspoke during one of his bid presentations.

First off, you’re human and making a mistake shows your audience that you’re real and vulnerable. That isn’t something you want to fake, but you don’t need to hide the fact that you’re fallible. Be you, be authentic, and be honest with your audience.

If you misspoke during a presentation, try one of these…

  • Correct Yourself – Before you leave the presentation, correct yourself by saying something on the lines of, “Let me jump back to something I said earlier and correct something because I think I misspoke then.”
  • web_offer_banner_3_contentmarketingOn Second Thought – Most likely, you’ll catch yourself saying something wrong almost immediately because your brain thankfully runs faster than your mouth. Make a transition and just start your next sentence with, “On second thought. I think…”
  • Clarify Yourself – Another transition sentence you can use is, “Oh no, that isn’t what I mean; that is going down a different path. This is the correct course.” Then finish with what you meant to say.

You don’t need to say these transitions exactly how I said, put your spin and vernacular on them. Depending on how you say it, you may get a few giggles if you’re humorous, and you’ll probably get everyone’s attention because they’ll want to make sure they pay attention to what you’re about to say next.

The biggest aspects of correcting yourself when you misspeak are not to make a bid deal out of the mistake and to stay calm.

More likely, you’ll misspeak during the Q&A session of your presentation. An audience member (or selection committee member of a bid presentation) will ask something you didn’t expect.

How to Correct Your Answer if You Misspoke during Q&A:

  • It’s Okay to Say That You Don’t Know – I know this doesn’t fix the situation if you misspoke, but hopefully it can prevent you from misspeaking in the first place. Say, “Wow, you stumped me with that question and I’m not 100% sure of that. Let me research it and I’ll get back to you. That is a good one!” Use this line when someone is asking something that isn’t your specialty or in your purview.
    • Following up with that person can kickstart a relationship with them, which I’ve seen lead to winning a bid presentation. In thought leadership presentations, this tactic also gives you a great reason to get the audience member’s contact info. (See Presentation Calls to Action for other ways to get contact info from audience members.)
  • Add a Disclaimer – State that your answer is just your opinion and that you don’t have any science or hard facts to back it; and that you’re answering only from your experience.
  • Ask the Audience for Help – You can finish your answer saying, “That’s my best stab at that question. Does anyone want to add anything else?”
    • Now don’t use this one more than once or you’ll lose credibility as the expert or potentially lose control of your audience. However, this tactic can be a great way to engage your audience when used well.
  • web_offer_banner_3_contentmarketingCorrect, Clarify, Reflect – Use one of the strategies I mentioned above, they work for Q&A as well. Even if you moved to another question, you can tell the audience. “On second thought, I want to jump to that question you asked earlier about ____. Let’s dig into that some more because I think I have a different take on it now that I’ve thought about it some more.”

Remember that it is always okay to say you don’t know something in response to a question and offer to get back with them, especially a question outside your level of expertise. Think about when you’re the customer and something goes wrong at a restaurant or retail store, many times how the person fixed the mistake makes you feel more appreciative than if everything went perfect and you become a life-long customer.

Mistakes happen. Correct or clarify yourself and move on. Don’t make a big deal out of it when you misspeak because it isn’t a big deal.


Additional Resources

How Speak Simple Can Help You

Win more work, increasing your billing rate, and prospects coming to you are all results of being an excellent presenter. Erica Olson created Speak Simple to help technical professionals to become comfortable presenting and excel at each presentation, whether a bid presentation or an educational, content marketing presentation. Learn more about Speak Simple’s flagship program is SpeakU, a self-guided presentation training program.



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