Superior Presentations 67: Don't Say Sorry

Don't say sorry.

It happens. You're speaking to a group and you stumble on a word or make a mistake. The temptation is to immediately blurt out "Sorry" or some variation of that word.

Don't say sorry when you make mistakes during your presentation. Instead, collect your thoughts as quickly as you can, restate the point correctly and move on.

There are three reasons why you shouldn't say sorry:

1. Often many of the people in your audience weren't listening closely and they missed the error. But when you say "sorry" you unnecessarily draw attention to the fact that you made a mistake.

2. When you say sorry your brain tends to fixate on the mistakes instead of your message. That might cause you to become anxious and feel more nervous about your presentation. Instead focus on your destination, not the bumps along the way.

3. The more times that your audience hears the word "sorry" the less they will feel confident about your credibility. This means that every time you say sorry you are working against yourself. Just imagine if the pilot of your plane announced every course correction with a "sorry". How might you feel about the pilot and the flight?

Here are some of the transition phrases that you might use:

  • Let me correct that.
  • What I really mean is...
  • Correction...
  • That didn't come out right.
  • Let's try again.

Or you could simply pause, smile, and then start that last sentence again.

What if you didn't notice a factual error when you stated it but recalled it later? You could say, "I want to correct something that I misstated earlier."

Naturally there are exceptions to this rule. If you did or said something that could have offended the audience then you would issue a sincere apology.

My youngest daughter used to say "oopsies" when she made a mistake. It sounded cute. When you are the speaker you don't look or sound cute when you litter your presentation with "oopsies".

Your audience will ignore or pardon simple presentation errors. The key for you is to look and sound competent so you can deliver your intended message.

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1 comment:

Chris Witt said...

Great advice. I agree with every point and hope to remember it when I'm speaking.

My least favorite "sorry" is "I'm sorry I didn't have more time to prepare my speech..."

Thanks for your insight.