You’ve Made a Mistake in Your Presentation, Now What?

If you give a lot of business presentations, you will eventually make a mistake. However, the takeaway is not the error; it is how you handle the error.

There are two main kinds of presentation mistakes, those your listeners witness and those that only you know about. 

The first kind (those everyone witnesses) can be anything from your phone ringing to a sudden coughing fit to a tech malfunction. These observed issues need to be acknowledged. Everyone saw or heard them, so you cannot just carry on as though nothing happened. Stop your presentation, take a breath and then recognize the problem. “Give me one minute to address this small problem.”

If your mistake is along verbal lines (mixing up words, mispronouncing a word, or a spoonerism—a blushing crow instead of a crushing blow), you need to correct it. Take a breath and restate what you wanted to say. Do not explain. Simply correct and move on.

In both of these instances, if you feel comfortable doing so, you can make a joke or laugh about the issue before resuming your presentation. 

The second kind of mistakes are the ones only you know about; you forget one of your points, leave out an example or skip over some of the material. In these instances, just keep going. Your listeners had no idea of your exact material, therefore they won’t realize something is amiss. Drawing attention to details they weren’t aware of is more likely to distract or confuse them. If it was important, you could always introduce it at a later point in your talk.