In my new book, The Encore Effect: How to Give a Remarkable Performance in Anything You Do, I talk about dealing with the pitfalls that can kill a remarkable performance.
In essence, I believe we need to do what we can to prevent potential pitfalls and be prepared for pitfalls beyond our control.
I’m reminded that there are some pitfalls we can’t anticipate.
Recently I cut myself pretty good while shaving before a speech. I carry a septic pencil and did everything I could to get the bleeding to stop (short of sticking the little piece of tissue paper on the cut). When I went on stage, all was well. About thirty minutes into my presentation, I started bleeding.
In twenty two years of professional speaking, this was a first.
Obviously I couldn’t pretend nothing was out of the ordinary-the audience could tell I was bleeding. I used my handkerchief to blot and hopefully stop the bleeding. I apologized to the audience. And a little later I got a laugh from something humorous I said about my unusual situation.
And I kept bleeding, just not as much.
The audience members were great. Nobody recoiled in horror, and they appreciated my professionalism (based on feedback from several that I received later).
And I think they were empathic because they know stuff happens.
When stuff you can’t anticipate or control happens, you choose carefully how to respond.
There are a few lessons in my new experience and they are familiar but worth remembering. First, don’t let a pitfall fluster you. It is harder to deal with when you’re panicked. Secondly, be honest and admit what’s going on. Don’t try to hide something that is obvious. Third, ask for understanding. Most will give it. What about those who don’t? Don’t worry about it. And finally, if appropriate, use humor to lighten the mood.
Some pitfalls we can avoid. Some we can prepare for. Others are spur-of-the-moment tests.