Many years of experience public speaking, most recently for Royal Caribbean and Costa cruise lines, and listening to a host of other accomplished speakers, have taught me how to handle a lot of curve balls.
Here are some public speaking tips from trenches:
1. You get there and all conditions have changed.
You were promised a projector and it isn't there. There's a mike, but it doesn't work. A presentation for 20 turns out to be 100. Your talk is for 1 ½ hours instead of 45 minutes. SOLUTION: The only solution is to expect these things and be prepared to speak under any conditions, and supported solely by what you brought with you.
2. Someone from audience says, "Who are you?"
SOLUTION: Answer what they want to know, not what they're asking—can you do job. Give your credentials and experience, who invited you to speak, how they found you and what your connection to group is. Stay with it long enough to dissipate tension this has caused for audience. 3. Someone from audience blurts out, "I know that's true because I was a victim of incest/rape. So what should I do?"
SOLUTION: This is not a question to answer before an audience. On other hand you, and your audience, are now concerned about this person. Address both issues. Express your concern for trauma in their past and ask them to speak with you afterwards, or to call your office. Ask them if it’s okay for you to continue.
4. You’re losing your audience. There's no sign of life. Their eyes are glazing over.
SOLUTION: This is your problem. Stop and address it. Pump up volume, or ask audience why you aren't reaching them and what you can do about it. You'll be off and rolling again soon.
5. So far you've mispronounced a name, given wrong prize to someone, spoken into a screeching mike, and a piece of ceiling tile just fell on your head.
SOLUTION: Get with feelings. Stop, laugh, and say, "Don't worry. I promise not to hurt myself up here." Then continue on.
6. You show up and it turns out they've publicized a different speech topic than you were told.
SOLUTION: Acknowledge situation, without blaming anyone. The last thing you want to do is accuse host of having made a mistake. Say what’s happened, i.e., "I was prepared to speak on ‘Strengths’ and I see here I'm so supposed to talk on ‘Personality Assessments’,” which will get audience on your side. Smile and look assured while you think furiously] Buy some time by asking them what they’d like to know about “Personality Assessments.” Then proceed, using lots of examples from Strengths assessment!
8. The transparency on screen is bouncing up and down (or something like that).
SOLUTION: Ask audience why. Someone will know. (Projectors bounce on a cruise because of ship, a seafaring attendee told me.) CORROLARY: When someone asks a question you can't answer, ask if anyone in audience can. Often they can. Thank them for their contribution; no apologies.