I often get humorous emails from friends and family about presenters who mangle the spoken word. Some are hysterical, others are groan-inducing, and still others are not fit for polite company (Freudian slips are the worst). My sister Marianne sent me the one in the title. Who doesn’t love a good Yogi Berra-caliber conflating of two popular idioms?! Another example that I personally witnessed was, “Once again, the greasy wheel gets the oil.” Love it.
My cousin posted on his facebook page that his professor used the word “right” 250 times in one lecture. Ouch! Last weekend, I heard a good one during an NPR pledge drive. The speaker wanted to say “We need viable support from listeners like you.” Instead he said, “We need vile support from listeners like you.”
Then yesterday a client called very upset because she mistakenly referred to Wayne Dyer as Wade Dwyer in a recent presentation. She was sure her credibility had suffered. Of course that’s possible, but what matters most is not that we speak the perfect King’s English all the time, but how we rebound from the mistake. Perhaps the best example I have seen of in-the-moment rebounding is when a very successful CEO tripped over his words for a good two minutes and finally stopped and said, “Never buy lips from a catalog.” The whole room laughed and he went on with his presentation.
You may recall one of the biggest gaffes of the 2008 presidential election was when, in a speech on the war in Iraq, Hillary Clinton recounted a story about facing “sniper fire” on a trip to Bosnia. Soon after, reporters found video footage of Clinton arriving without incident. When called on it, Hillary said, “I don’t know what I was thinking. I was sleep-deprived, and I misspoke.” And that was that. Time to move on.
Fortunately for Hillary, she had the unrelenting pace of a jam-packed campaign schedule to help her move past the mistake. But for the rest of us, we tend to wallow in our gaffes, often going so far as to let it affect our self-worth.
While we have written about this before, it bears repeating. The way you get over a bad speech is to give yourself 24 hours to reflect (and to wallow, if necessary). During that time ask yourself what you can do to avoid making the same mistakes in the future – and – what went well. Once you have completed your mental checklist, make a plan to go up in front of another audience as soon as possible. The best way to recover from a blooper is to get back on the horse and ride again.
Oh, and one other thing, next time you come to a fork in the road, take it.