Maybe it wasn't the most horrible speech in the history of the world, but it definitely won't be winning any awards.
So you, the embarrassed, humiliated, angry-at-yourself speaker have a few decisions to make. But before you do, it's important to take a few deep breaths and perhaps allow yourself to mourn… but for no more than 24 hours.
Let's face it - speech makers can't and won't be "on" all the time. Even the most prolific speakers occasionally do questionable (or downright horrible) work. So a bad speech is inevitable, especially if you give plenty of them (as in the case of teachers, politicians, and/or CEOs.)
After you've calmed down a bit, it's important to look at your experience not from your own eyes, but from the eyes of an objective individual. Step away from your emotions and begin to ask yourself the following questions:
What was it exactly that made the speech ineffective? (Ditch the word "bad" - it's subjective and doesn't really mean anything. Aim to come up with some specific reasons that the speech didn't go over as planned.)
Were there any elements of the speech that were out of the control of the speaker? (For instance, did the microphone constantly malfunction? Was the audience particularly hostile? Did the lights flicker on and off to the point of distraction?)
If only one part of the speech could be changed to make it better, what would that be? (Perhaps the ending should have had more impact, perhaps a slideshow should have been included to add visual interest to the piece, or maybe the question and answer session should have been avoided at all costs.)
Was the speaker prepared for the speech? (If the answer is "no", then what more could have been done? Was the research lacking? Was the speech maker trying to "wing it"? Was the speaker ignorant of the subject matter?)
As you begin to answer these questions (taking your time and really considering each one), the "cracks" in the presentation will begin to appear. Write down all your thoughts as you go through this evaluation process - you'll want to use those notes to ensure that the same negative experience does not occur twice.
Once you have all your thoughts, ideas, and critical analyses on paper (or stored on the computer), it's time to do the most important thing of all - walk away.
Unless you have an upcoming presentation the next day, take some time off of berating yourself or agonizing about your not-so-good speech. Take a walk, read a good book, chat with some friends, learn to ski… whatever! This mental break will give you time to shore up your esteem and clear your mind.
Without such a holiday from what you perceive as a less-than-stellar moment in your public speaking career, you'll have a difficult time getting up on the stage or in front of a group again.
After you've refreshed your psyche, you can return to your notes. Though you cannot rewrite your history, you will have the power to at least change your future by referring to them periodically. For instance, the next time you are given the opportunity to speak in front of an audience, use your jottings as a way to ensure you never make the same public speaking mistakes twice.
Remember - every speaker has a rough day. You're not alone. But the best ones press on and learn from their errors.
Rather than wallowing in pity, they pull up their proverbial "boot straps" and vow to do better. Some even get to the point where they talk about a bad speech during a good one to elicit laughter from their listeners! So be gentle to yourself, but always strive to keep growing.
I was asked to give a speech at a party with about 5 mins warning in front of 25 colleagues! No chance to prepare and no experience of public speaking it was a disaster. It was also being filmed! Everyone else had to do one too and they did so well except for me. I’m so comfortable with my colleagues too so feel so stupid this happened. I literally froze After the first sentence and can’t even remember the rest. I keep thinking about it and how weird I must have looked
Scarlet - 2-Apr-20 @ 3:06 AM
I just gave a welcome speech 2 hours ago and it was horrible. i froze in the middle of it and cant even remember the rest. i let down so many people. i hope i can forget this.
Eve - 25-Nov-19 @ 12:27 PM
I had to give an impromptu speech so was not prepared at all . There were VERY VISUAL signs of nervousness, I constant fumbledhad moments of loss of word and everybody in room was giving me sympathetic look which makes it worse .
My bosses arent looking at me and am sure I will get to hear about it . Thanks for this article this makes me feel better ...
MS - 20-Nov-19 @ 5:49 PM
Just woke up from the horror of a terrible presentation in front of a concourse of people. If felt offline while delivering with visible signs of nervousness. Sense of rejection was very obvious. At the end, there was a notablehesitant in theirpartial applause . Although speaking infront of crowd isn't my callings however inevitable on my job role.??. Honestly, i'm a bit better reading through this article.
K - 11-Oct-19 @ 6:42 AM
@Shar - yes, look at Teresa May on her speech yesterday. Half her speech was read via notes and then she had issues with her throat. Even the PM can make a terrible speech!
AmyNJ - 5-Oct-17 @ 2:00 PM
I just gave a terrible speech in front of our larger team several hours ago. I realized even more how terrible it was when the big boss wouldn't even look at me.Thanks for this. It's helps reading this and to know that other people go through this as well.
Shar - 4-Oct-17 @ 11:14 AM
@SUZIE - don't beat yourself up about this, we all go through times when we think our speech was awful and it probably wasn't as bad as you think. Practice makes perfect, so don't give up!
Elle*7 - 26-Jun-17 @ 1:54 PM
Just got out of a fundraising speech and I feel horriblebecause I guess the speech was horrible, I feel so embarrassed and like quittingpublic speech. NO BODY THANKED ME FOR THE SPEECH AS THEY USUALLY DID AND THAT TO ME SHOWS I WAS HORRIBLE.
SUZIE - 25-Jun-17 @ 2:42 AM
Gave a presentation couple days ago - spoke okay but legs shook visibly all the very through. Feeling totally humiliated - panicked, like no-one will ask me to speak or give me a job again. But this is good advice - 24 hrs is over so will try to forget it now and just focus on doing it better (and being less tired and stressed etc) next time..
Jelly44 - 16-Jul-16 @ 12:30 AM
I just gave a bad speech just yesterday, was asked 30 minutes to the event to speak on behalf of the staff . I started well but somewhere along the way I lost it. I felt so angry at myself but since I read this I am starting to feel better. Thank you.
Dipunus - 3-Jul-15 @ 1:03 PM
@wes - glad you got through it, well done. Remember practice makes perfect and as it specifies in the article you can pull up your proverbial "boot straps" and vow to next time do better. So be gentle to yourself, be proud that you pulled it back from the brink, but always strive to keep growing.
PublicSpeakingExpert - 23-Apr-15 @ 12:22 PM
I just completed a speech and yooo it was hell up there coz I lost my confidence..I forgot my speech somewhere somehow... But I bounced back and tried to be the best.The competition was stiff but I tried
wes - 22-Apr-15 @ 7:48 AM
I bombed my speech just 12 hours ago in a competition where I had agreat chance to win. Iamknown to be a reasonably good speaker.As I openedthe mike stopped for few seconds.I got distracted,upset & my opening turned horrible.My 3 minutes speech was just a drag thereafter.I was probably last in the competition.I feel much better reading your material.Very appropriate for me.Hope to start speaking again
PK - 21-Sep-14 @ 5:38 PM
I just completed a presentation about 8 hours ago. This was my first major presentation and I think I bombed. Not sure why but I feel terrible. This was the first thing I read and I am starting to feel a little better.