When you are standing in front of an audience giving a giving a talk, I know you don’t want to make a mistake. You don’t want to experience stumbling over words, forgetting what you were going to say, or blurting out something you didn’t intend to say.

But, if any of those situations happen, I say to you….. so what? Is that really what the audience wants from you….to be perfect? To never make a mistake?

Not in my experience. Audiences want relevant information that will help them do their jobs better. Or, they want to be entertained.

When you make a mistake, depending upon your audience and the topic, you have choices on how to deal with it.

Since my seminars are not formal, I call out my mistake, poke fun at myself, and then move on. I don’t belabor it; I don’t let it throw me off.

If I forget where I was going with a point, I call it out. “Gosh..I was going somewhere with this point, but my mind went blank.”

Someone in the audience will always help me get back on track. “You were talking about X.”

If you are in a more serious or formal setting, you may say, “I misspoke. Let me go back and give you the correct information.”

If you forget where you are, look back at your PPT to remind yourself or, look down at your notes. You can do this in silence.

I can’t imagine your audiences holding that against you. And, in fact, you may be setting an example for them as to how to handle a mistake when they are presenting.

We speakers always want to be fluid, articulate and laser-sharp. But, we are human and make mistakes.

I have found that perfection is a lofty goal. It is far more important to be human and connect with your audience.

So, remember, strive for connection….not perfection.

Are you sure you truly understand the question?


A portion of my training is devoted to Q & A, both how to formulate your answer, but also how to make sure you truly answer the question.

What I am discovering is presenters answer the question they think they hear.

Why not be respectful of the questioner and find out what s/he truly means, rather than assuming?

In a recent training, a fellow participant asked the presenter at the end of his (mock) presentation, “Tell me your process.”

The presenter launched into an explanation that didn’t answer the question.

Instead, he should have done some investigative work. Here is an example of how you can get to the true intent.

“We have several processes in place for both budgeting and scheduling. Is there one that you wanted me to focus on?”

Here is another example.

Q: “Tell us about Project A?”

A: “I am happy to. Is there a particular phase you are interested in?”

Reach clarity before you answer.

Clarification not only helps you narrow your response (generally, answers should be around 1 minute or less), but more importantly, the questioner will feel listened to, and you will answer the question s/he asked.

Some people might over use this as a stalling technique, and it is true…this does buy you time. However, my suggestion is always to be authentic and to only use this when you genuinely need clarity.


If you want to sound succinct, prepared and clear in
Question-and-Answer sessions, try the H-E-C-K formula.


What is the overarching statement that sets the context for E.


What is the story….or what are the facts….that support the headline?


End by summarizing.

K – Keep quiet.

If you ramble, you risk saying something you don’t want to, or diluting the clarity and strength of the message.

Let me step you through a simple example.

You are asked the question, “Why are you choosing Proposal A?”


“There are two compelling reasons why we are supporting this proposal.”


“Our customers will experience a seamless transition, and, in the long-run, it will save our division money.”


“Considering these facts, you can see why Proposal A would be the right choice for our organization.”

If there is a follow-up question, you start all over again with a new Headline.

While I teach this primarily for Q&A, you might find that this formula helps you organize your thoughts for any presentation.



That is what your audience is asking as you begin your presentation. If you don’t address that, they will most likely tune out.

So, how can you connect to your audience with your content?

Include three elements: credentials, facts and emotions.

Credentials: What is your/your organization’s experience? What are other organizations doing? What are the thought leaders or experts saying about your topic?

Facts: This speaks for itself. Include relevant and meaningful data and statistics.

Emotions: In so many business presentations, we forget to build in an emotional connection to the topic.

How will this affect their work? What’s the payoff for the organization? How will this improve their lives? How will this enhance the customer’s experience?   How will the community respond? How will this improve the image of your organization?

Please let me know your experiences and what has worked for you when speaking to an audience.

Persuasive Presentations

Here are some tips to making a persuasive presentation.

Step one – Analyze your audience

Step two – Perspective.  What is your real purpose in this communication?  What results do you want by the end of the speech or meeting? What is the action step?  Is it attainable?

Step Three – Appeals.  What will work best for this audience:  your education/credentials (or that of like minded experts), logic (statistics) or emotions.

Step Four – A clear, organized, BRIEF presentation.  The retention curve of an audience spirals downward the longer you speak.

Step Five – A practiced – yet not memorized – speech.

Step Six – Great delivery skills.  Do you look comfortable and sound natural. In order to achieve this, see Step Five.

Step Six – Get audience feedback.  What motivated them or what didn’t.


There are a few reasons why people are afraid to stand up in front of a group and speak:

  • The fear of being ridiculed;
  • The fear of being judged;
  • Separation anxiety (everyone else is seated and you aren’t).
I have worked with enough people throughout the years to understand that I can’t snap my fingers to make the fear disappear.  But, I can help anyone appear more confident.
How?  Instead of spending sleepless nights fearful of failure, turn that negative energy and useless worry into something positive.  Write down all of your positive traits, and remind yourself the value you bring to your organization.  Do you have an energetic, engaging personality?  Are you genuine and sincere?  Do you have a deep expertise in the suject matter?
Prepare!  Don’t wait until the last minute.
Practice!  At least 6 times before the presentation.
Take time, before your speech that day, to mentally walk through each aspect of your presentation.  Picture yourself speaking with confidence and clarity.
When it is your time to speak and as you take your place in front of the room, don’t let the fear show in your posture.  Think of what your mother drummed into you….STAND UP STRAIGHT.
Are you still feeling the butterflies?  Channel those nerves into a communication skill.
The best skill to include that will mask the nerves is a descriptive, purposeful hand gesture.  Find ways, throughout your speech, to use your hands to describe your theory, plan or widget.
Remember, the listeners want you to succeed.  (Don’t you feel the same when you are sitting in the audience?)
Know that the strengths you have will be evident.  Let that solid foundation power your presentation.