Communication Rebel Blog

The Unexpected Benefits of Screwing Up

My brain was ahead of mouth.

My mouth wanted to catch up so my brain ordered it to cut out a few syallables.

What should have been “Quite a bit of research” was shortened to bit + the ch part of research.

As the word hung in the air, mortified I glanced out at the audience expecting the worst.

Instead I was greeted with smiles and laughter – as I started to apologize for my gaffe – an audience member shouted out “Don't be sorry!”

I laughed too.

I am not advocating swearing in a professional presentation but instead realizing that screwing up can have unexpected benefits.

Transformative Moment

It's the moment where the audiences stop seeing the presenter as just a speaker who is spewing knowledge (or in my case research) but as a person who is just like them. A person who makes mistakes and can laugh at themselves.

Audiences are Forgiving

Believe it or not – audiences realize how hard it is to be a presenter – most are incredibly forgiving of these slips-ups. Those 100 eyeballs staring at back at you want you to succeed!

 Needed Levity

Have you ever had an argument with a friend, significant other or co-worker, where you say something unintentionally funny? The conflict stops. You both look at each other and laugh. It breaks the tension. Same with messing up during a presentation. It gives the audience a good laugh and a break from the information.

Scott Berkun in his book Confession of a Public Speaker collected a variety of public speaking horror stories that will make any presenter feel better about the little slip-ups.

Confession time! What was your worst public speaking gaffe and how did you recover? Share your story in the comment section.

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