by Steve Roche

When things go wrong

Occasionally, even though you have thoroughly planned and prepared, things will go wrong.

Buying time

You’ve lost your thread: despite all your preparation and practice, you suddenly find your mind is blank. Instead of sitting down in confusion, you ask:

Am I speaking clearly enough?

Can I be heard at the back of the room?

You know you are. You are not seeking information, just time – long enough to grasp the thought and proceed.

Chaining ideas

This is a technique that has helped many people. What you do is to use the final word, phrase or idea in your last sentence for the start of a new sentence. This makes a chain that will run on indefinitely.


You are speaking about business success, and have just said, ‘Most employees do not get ahead because they display so little initiative.’

Suddenly, you are stuck. So begin with initiative. You may have no idea how to end the sentence, but begin anyway: ‘Initiative means originality, doing a thing on your own, without waiting to be told.’

This is not gripping stuff, but it’s better than an agonising silence. ‘Constantly having to tell people who refuse to do any thinking is exasperating.’

OK, now we must say something about exasperation: ‘Repeatedly experiencing exasperation increases levels of stress – one of the biggest problems in business today.’ And so on.

You’ve kept going; the words made sense and, chances are, you are back on course now. Try this – it’s fun, as well as good practice, and you will find it possible to talk off the cuff for some time.

Regaining state

There are many tips and tricks you can use that will help you to regain state. You will accumulate these as you watch experienced presenters, and as you build your own repertoire.


You have lost your thread. You say:

Now would you believe that? I was so wrapped up in the possibilities, my mind has wandered off.

What were we talking about?


You did something daft. You step to one side and point back at where you were standing:

Isn’t it amazing how some presenters can mess up.

Of course I would never do anything so stupid as that presenter just did.

Then carry on as though it never happened. You have dissociated yourself from the faux pas.


If your state is good, you can get away with anything. See Managing your state.