I was once working with the chief operating officer of a large restaurant chain when he made a startling confession. He told me that he once considered requiring his restaurants to ruin one meal every evening. “It would be easy to do,” he said. “We could just badly burn a steak.”
Why would he do such a thing?
He explained that the ruined meal creates a chance to build a lasting rapport. “Our studies show that if we apologize for the mistake, handle it quickly, and give them free drinks or a free dessert, then the customers will love us and come back more than they otherwise would have if everything were normal,” he told me.
So what does this have to do with being a great speaker? Just as restaurants see mishaps as a chance to build rapport, so too can speakers take advantage of mishaps to connect better with their audiences.
Just yesterday, I had to give a presentation for a law firm where the fancy projection system failed to work. When everyone saw me scrap the PowerPoint and just move forward, it actually helped me connect better with the audience. It was like I had somehow won points by cruising through the problem without a hitch.
You can do the same.
The key is to have the right attitude. If you shake off the problem and move forward, then the audience will connect with you. You become the hero overcoming the odds in one of the little mini-dramas of life. They cheer for you to win and love it when you succeed.
Tuesday, March 31st, 2009