How to Command a Room When You're Unprepared

What should you do when all eyes are on you and you're not at all prepared?

Richie Frieman
5-minute read
Episode #372

If you’re not a professional public speaker like myself or my good friend The Public Speaker Lisa B. Marshall, getting in front of a group of people can be incredibly nerve-wracking. But what’s even worse is when you’re unprepared. Be it you didn’t plan, the mood has changed, or the deal is no longer on the table, sometimes you just have to regroup and move forward.

Whether it's stalling for time or asking others for their input to make up for your lack of output, you have to dig deep, keep calm, and carry yourself with grace and poise. To do that,  check out my top three quick and dirty tips for how to command a room when you're unprepared.

Tip #1: Keep It A Secret

Here’s one great tip about how to convince people in a room you know what you’re doing: don’t tell them you're nervous. That’s a golden rule for landing a solid presentation. Look, everyone is nervous —everyone! Me, Lisa, the President, you name it; if you don’t get nervous—even slightly—before standing in front of a room of people, then your heart is not truly in it. Now, you can be more comfortable than most (which comes with time), but no one can say they don’t get even one butterfly fluttering around their gut. However, the main difference between someone who properly nails a presentation, and someone who fails, is poise. And with that, the best way to keep calm and carry on when things aren’t going your way. 

Picture this: you’re watching someone talk to a group of people, and you see them fiddle with their hands, pace more than usual, or even hear them stumble over their words. Now, part of you may say,  “Gosh, this person seems very nervous,” while another part of your mind may think, “Maybe this is just their style?” But unless someone admits it, you’ll never know for sure. Folks, if you’re in a jam and realize things are going south, by all means do not bring it up and go with the flow. A proper presenter does not air every small discrepancy in their skill set like, “Oh Gee, I’m super nervous right now I hope I don’t mess up,” or “Well, that wasn’t supposed to happen … ” Regardless of the severity, a presentation is a game of mind over matter, and if you don’t mind, it won’t matter! It's not lying; it’s just about putting on a proper face and remaining professional. When you feel something isn’t going your way, take a drink of water and a deep breath and act as if everything is fine and dandy. Even if someone thinks you’re unprepared, don’t give them verbal reasoning to see it as true, and you’ll survive just fine.

Tip #2: Turn The Tables

True story: Sean had to give a large presentation to a room of ten clients in his office, two months ago. Five minutes before the meeting, his assistant told him that she forgot to print out the PowerPoint presentation as promised.  Did he flip out? Yes, yes he did … just not in front of anyone. However, knowing how important this meeting was, he had to find an alternative to simple walking in and saying, “Well, folks things aren’t going my way today … THANKS TO JOAN WHO HAD ONE STINKIN’ JOB!” Thankfully, he took the high road, and did some simple math, based off how fast printers print and how many people are in the room. He figured he had twenty minutes of his hour meeting to stall before the papers were ready … without making it appear as though he was in deep water. To do this, Sean turned the tables on the room and stalled like a champ.