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Audiences dread public speaking because they think, from a whole pile of bad coaching on the subject, that public speaking is about being perfect. It’s not. Nobody likes a perfect person. Public speaking is about being likable, so your message shines through.

Today we’re drilling recoveries.

The Recover from Mistakes Drill

It’s simple.

First, think up a list of mistakes. Here’s a short list of mistakes I commonly make:

  • Mispronunciation
  • Reading the wrong quote and realizing it halfway through
  • Stumbling with some words
  • Asking the judge to vote for my opponent’s side
  • Saying “good morning” at 9pm
  • Saying “uhhhhh” for a really long time/losing your train of thought

Second, make a list of responses. For this blog, I’m not going to match exact responses to each mistake. That’s what YOU should do.

Here are some examples.

-Cute blow-over: “I think we all know what I was TRYING to say.”
-Self-criticism: “I’d like to say that mistake was a first…but it wasn’t.”
-Quote Marty the Lion from the movie Madagascar: “I’m ‘not so good with the putting the words together and their coming out, good thing.’”
-Sheepishly smile and say “Errrrr right, moving on…”
-Dry humor: State EXACTLY what happened, while kinda smiling. “I just quoted an expert that supports their side. Let me tell you why he is so wrong with the NEXT thing I’m going to say.”

Why Honesty Works

Judges see themselves when they see you. The more they identify with you, the better. It’s likable and real to make a mistake and then recover from that mistake.

Try it, and you’ll realize something crazy I learned from debate days: you can rack up 30s and 1st place speaker awards despite the mistakes by handling them authentically and in a self-critical way.


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