Standing up in front of a group of people and giving a speech can be a very nerve-wracking experience. It strikes fear in the hearts of more than one in four people (according to a survey of 1,541 adults). And no matter how well you prepare for it, mistakes can still happen.

But the good news is that it’s almost always possible to recover from those mistakes! Although stress can lead you to fumble, you can still deliver a terrific speech. You just need to know what to do when accidents happen.

Sue Shellenbarger of the Wall Street Journal provides this list of common public speaking errors and tips on how to fix them:

  • Problem – Your mind goes blank and you can’t remember what you were going to say.
    How to fix it
    – Pause for a minute and try to calm down. Smile at the audience, take a deep breath, and take a drink of water. This mini-break should help you to recall the main points of your speech.
  • Problem – No one laughs at your opening joke.
    How to fix it – If people are offended by your joke, quickly apologize. If it’s just that no one found it funny, quickly push on with your speech. Don’t let it rattle you.
  • Problem – You misplace your notes.
    How to fix it – Try to remember the way your speech begins and ends, and some of the main points that you make in the middle. Scribble this information down on a piece of paper (if you have time), and then go for it!
  • Problem – You start to shake and sweat while you’re on stage.
    How to fix it – Pause for a few seconds and take a deep breath. Move around instead of just standing behind the podium. Try to focus on what your audience really needs to hear rather than your own situation.
  • Problem – When you walk out on stage, you suddenly realize that your clothes aren’t buttoned/zipped properly.
    How to fix it
    – Button or zip yourself up as quickly and discretely as possible. If the audience noticed, try to make a joke about it. If no jokes come to mind, then just push on!

And if you have any additional public-speaking tips, please share them in the Comments section below.

Good luck! You’ll do great!


Shellenbarger, S. (2015, December 23). Raise a Glass, Give a Speech, Without a Stumble. The Wall Street Journal, p. D3.