What You Should Have Said

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Whatever can go wrong will go wrong, and usually at the worst possible time. Therefore, as a speaker, you need to be prepared, armed with clever lines that prove you are not only in control, but you can think on your feet. As any good comedian would say, be prepared – with some witty lines in case something doesn’t go according to plan.

Scott Friedman, a speaker, author and past president of the National Speakers Association, says: “The key in delivering planned spontaneity is to pause for a moment after the incident or comment, look up like you are thinking, and then – boom – deliver the line.” Here are some samples, from an article in the Toastmaster magazine: 

The microphone goes dead:

  • “Evidently, someone has heard this speech before.”
  • “Let me have a show of hands: How many of you read lips?”
  • “This is carrying Silent Night a little far. (Holiday time)”

Feedback from the microphone:

  • “If I wanted some feedback, I would have asked for it.”
  • Stare cautiously to the left, while listening to the microphone buzz. Then say in a concerned tone, “Whatever it is, it’s getting closer.”

When the lights go out or flicker:

  • “I’ve often had people doze off during my talk, but never an entire chandelier.” – Gene Perret
  • “I do my best work in the dark.”
  • “This lighting really plays tricks on your eyes. I’m actually a lot more handsome and skinnier than I look.”
  • “Everyone's a critic.”

Loud noises:

  • “Mom, can you be a little more careful?”
  • “That concludes the musical portion of the program.”

Fire alarm or bell:

  • “Time to take my pill.”
  • “So that’s what happened to my wake-up call.”

Slide is upside down: 

  • “For those of you standing on your heads...”
  • “This is the Australian part of the presentation.”

Writing on flipchart and you run out of ink:

  • “Obviously, I've come to the dry part of my presentation. “

Participant walks out:

  • “Look, my first walking ovation.”
  • “It gets better, I promise. I walked out of my first talk.”

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