How to quickly recover from a Bad Presentation.


That moment- the sweaty palms and dry mouth as you realise it’s all going wrong and you wish you could start again or frankly walk out the door! 

 If you’re lucky you realise during the presentation and have time to get back on track. 

 Follow our tips and tricks to pull it back from the brink.

When the tech goes wrong

Never rely on slides for your presentation. Firstly no one signed up to listen to a ‘read aloud’ session so don’t have slides with all the words. 

You should always have any prompts or notes in some alternative form.  

Practising in advance will save you here – so you can deliver your planned speech or presentation without reliance on tech.  If you’ve got a slide with in-depth figures to talk over best to save this for another time and get on with your presentation 

If your microphone stops working it’s best to stop and ask for help.  It’s easier to stop briefly to find a solution than have it keep going in and out throughout. The time spent fixing will be less disruptive.  If you don’t find a solution try talking without one – project your voice, speak slowly and check in regularly with the back to ensure they haven’t drifted off – 

Frozen Body Language

Sometimes we freeze and sound emotionless. This results in a disengaged audience and a bombed presentation.  

Without having to do a crazy dance at the front it’s very possible to move your body, walk away from the front, or swing your arms. Just give yourself permission to move! 

It’s perfectly acceptable to involve your audience in this ‘I’m sorry I’ve realised I’ve got stiff and boring so forgive me while I loosen up” will get more engagement and empathy than presenting a wooden dreary talk.

Losing eye contact

We all get nervous when we are being observed.  If you’ve found yourself focusing on a point at the back of the room and avoiding eye contact, take a sip of water and give yourself the challenge to move your eyes.  We were taught as children to look to the back of the room but it’s a bit of a giveaway when you watch someone doing this.  Find a couple of spots at different positions within the room and move your eyes between them – obviously pausing at each.  This will help give you movement even if you’re avoiding eye contact.

Going off message

If you lose your train of thought it is perfectly acceptable to sip water, pause for effect to give yourself a moment to get focused, or if that fails you can ask the audience to get you back on track. You are presenting to humans and almost all of them know the feeling, so engage them and ask for their help.  Probably worth noting you can only ask them once – I recently attended a speech where the presenter asked the audience three or four times – I definitely switched off after that! As an aside if none of the audience can help to say where you were, or what you were talking about, chances are you’d lost their engagement so focus on getting that back.


Assuming you’re not a lecturer, and even if you are – the days of being lectured too have thankfully long gone.  If you hear yourself doing it, stop for a moment and edit your voice, use different words and assume you are presenting to people who absolutely know this subject.  You are trying to explain your point of view, not bore them on a topic they know nothing about.  In planning, don’t use complicated words unnecessarily.  There is an old method of practising that says your grandmother should be able to understand the presentation.  It’s worth remembering that – although not in a patronising ‘Granny you don’t understand the world wide web type of way’.

Knowing people aren’t listening

When people start fidgeting, surreptitiously checking phones and generally you get the feeling they aren’t listening find a way to regain command of the room.  If you’re good at improvising you might pick someone out in the room to engage with a question, or give a shocking statistic, show emotion in your words if the presentation allows.   Going off script and telling a story allows the audience to connect to human stories better than the best-planned speech of impersonal information.  Also, remember to change your volume and your pace so it’s not monotonous and never read your slides – so many presenters do it and it never works. 

Running over

It is a good idea to create your presentation in modules knowing mentally which you can drop in the moment.  Practise should have weeded out all but the most important aspects but always make sure you give a proper finish and communicate where they can find you to gather more information.  It’s better to end with a proper closing few minutes than to race through a bit more of the presentation – leave people feeling calm and not as though you rushed.

All of this advice works if you’re reading the room at the time and realising you’re going down!  But what to do if you leave and realise it went badly and you can’t face turning up to work tomorrow.  A couple of tips for how not to resign over a bad presentation

  1. Don’t go over it endlessly in your head
  2. Good presenters give bad speeches every so often
  3. After a few days focus on two or three things you can improve on for next time
  4. Try to be light-hearted about it, and find a comedy moment within it – it can help destress a situation
  5. Talk to a trustworthy friend about it, and get it off your chest
  6. Don’t read the reviews and don’t assume it was a disaster. 

And don’t forget to practise. Reach out for help.  If you’ve given a presentation you felt was a disaster don’t make the same mistakes next time – and of course, you can always call in some help by finding a trustworthy trainer/coach to help you as there’s always a next time…..

boring presentation

The Communication Collective work throughout the UK and internationally.

To get in touch with one of the team, please email, phone, or use the form below.

Charlotte: 07966 538 159 / Celia: 07793 560 649

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