What is Your Plan “B?”
“How you handle life depends a lot on how you handle plan B, or if you have a plan B.”– Nelson Demille
Every military combatant commander knows their battle plan survives only until the first contact with the enemy. It is not so “cut and dry” for speakers, but every outstanding speaker knows their presentation will not go entirely as planned.
Just like a military combatant commander has a Plan “B,” speakers also need to have a Plan “B” for when their presentation does not go entirely as planned.
Below, we will examine what could go wrong in your presentation, how to create your Plan “B,” and what not to do when something goes wrong.
What Could Go Wrong?
Think of all the things that could go wrong in your presentations – bad lighting, inoperable microphone, and apparel misfunction are a few.
In this world of new virtual world of ours, other unforeseen challenges can happen in your presentation – low laptop battery, intermittent Internet, and corrupted slide presentation.
Other things that can go wrong in your presentation are forgetting your second main point, saying multiple “ahs,” “ums,” repeated words, and unfinished sentences, not to mention faulty logic.
These presentation challenges are not even close to an all-inclusive list.
The point here is to think about what could go wrong and have a ready response.
So, there are several things that can go wrong in your presentation, but how do you plan for them? You create your Plan “B.”
Create Your Plan “B”
If you are a structured person, what I am about to say will resonate with you. However, if you are not a structured type, I ask you to suspend your unstructured ways and think about the benefit of what I am about to say.
The first step in creating your Plan “B” is to create a list of twenty things that could go wrong in your presentation.
The second step is to divide the list into the following categories: (1) things that will have an impact on your presentation, (2) things that will somewhat have an impact on your presentation, and (3) things that will have no impact on your presentation. Disregard the things that will have no impact on your presentation category and put aside the things that will somewhat impact your presentation for now.
Concentrate on the things that will have an impact on my presentation category. Prioritize the items in this category from most probable to least probable. Then document your response from the most probable things to the least probable things. These planned responses are your Plan “B.”
If time is available, do the same for things that somewhat will impact your presentation category.
Review your Plan “B” often before your presentation to ensure you will have a response ready if something goes wrong in your presentation.
So, you have made your list of the number of things that can go wrong in your presentation. You have also created your Plan “B” with ready responses when the most probable and important things go wrong in your presentation.
The last piece of advice to recovering from things going wrong in your presentation is often overlooked by even the most experienced speakers. Don’t advertise to Your Audience.
Don’t Advertise to Your Audience
You do not want to be embarrassed by a faux pas in your presentation. However, some speakers inadvertently create this embarrassment by announcing to the audience when something has gone wrong in their presentation.
The vast majority of these incidents are caused by not being comfortable with silence. I am talking about the silence you will need in your presentation to implement your Plan “B.”
Here is an example. Suppose you are delivering your presentation, and you draw a blank on your second main point. In this circumstance, your Plan “B” could be to stop talking, refer to your presentation notes on the lectern, and then continue with your presentation. Audiences are abundantly forgiving in this circumstance. They will admire you for deftly handling this “bump in the road.”
What you should not do is confirm the problem with the audience. Saying things like, “Oops. I forgot my second main point.” or “Do I feel stupid. I forgot my second main point.” actually decreases your credibility with your audience. I will prove this to you. Imagine you are an audience member. Would you have more confidence in a speaker who announced their faux pas or a speaker in control simply referring back to their notes? My guess is it would be the latter.
As in conversation, your tendency while delivering your presentations will probably be to admit your error. Although, while in conversation, this trait is admirable and reduces the defensiveness of the other person, it lowers your credibility with the audience in presentations.
For most mistakes in your presentation delivery, your audience will not even know them. However, for the small number of mistakes they do notice, they will respect you more if you deftly invoke your Plan “B” and recover.
In this article, we have examined the number of things that can go wrong in your presentation, learned a method you can use to create your Plan “B,” and saw how your credibility with your audience could suffer if you freely announce all the errors in your presentation.
Your Plan “B” is vital to you delivering a successful presentation.
Don’t leave home without it!
Call to Action
Make a list of everything that can go wrong in your next and future presentations
Develop your Plan “B” according to a prioritized list of the errors having the most impact on your presentation
Announcing the errors in your presentation to your audience decreases your credibility with them. Don’t do it!
“The key is for the audience never to know, so I have a plan B for every illusion.”– David Copperfield
Frank DiBartolomeo is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and award-winning speaker, presentation and interview skills coach, and Professional Member of the National Speakers Association. He was awarded Toastmasters International’s highest individual award, Distinguished Toastmaster, in 2002 because of his outstanding work in public speaking and leadership.
Frank formed DiBartolomeo Consulting International (DCI), LLC (www.frankdibartolomeo.com) in 2007. The mission of DCI is to help technical professionals to inspire, motivate, and influence their colleagues and other technical professionals through improving their presentation skills, communication, and personal presence. Frank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (703) 509-4424.
Don’t miss Frank DiBartolomeo’s latest book!
“Speak Well and Prosper: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Better Presentations”