Never say, “I’m sorry.”

There is no place in a presentation for apologies. There should be nothing in your preparation that would cause you to apologise and nothing in your delivery that you should apologise for. Apologies are an expression of contrition and of course they have value when errors occur. In terms of presentations the places such problems might occur are in construction of the story (p1), construction of the media (p2) and delivery of the presentation (p3). The first two instances are completely within the control of the presenter and should never be an issue and the latter, even if performance issues, have little value in expression save to draw attention to the fact. The majority of the time the only person who notices is you.When you are on stage, don’t apologise.

In terms of the story (p1) appropriate preparation and knowledge of the audience should prevent those situations in which a presenter is heard to apologise. “I’m sorry, I didn’t prepare well.” “I apologise, I didn’t realise this was a mixed group audience.” “Please forgive me, this is a long talk, I’ll rush through it.” All these comments show a lack of preparation and understanding of the purpose of the presentation. It is the responsibility of the presenter to know, ahead of time, exactly the nature of the audience, the requirements of the presentation and appropriate preparation for the presentation. There is no excuse for failing to do this.

The media is also a source of apology but once again appropriate care and preparation should remove the majority of issues presenters feel they need to apologise for. “I’m sorry, these aren’t my slides.” “Do forgive me, that doesn’t appear to have worked.” “Excuse me for this complicated slide, I’ll walk you through it.” Good presenters do not attempt to deliver, without preparation another colleagues slides. If you do, then suitable preparation will allow adjustment and correction, not apology. All issues of technology and function within a presentation should be addressed and tested during practice and not on delivery of the piece. Complex slides were complex in their construction and failing to correct this is laziness or uncaring, not a cause for apology but change. The media should be prepared not apologised for.

Lastly there are issues that presenters feel they need to apologise for during delivery (p3.) Don’t. Some presenters minimise their own value unnecessarily, apologise for their appearance or nervousness or problems of delivery. Firstly, the problems are better addressed and corrected rather than hoping the audience will forgive and secondly seeking comfort by debasement neither shows the audience value nor builds up the speaker. Technical issues of course do occur but running through beforehand should minimise this and unless it was your fault that you pulled the plug out, don’t take it on as your responsibility.  Apologising in such circumstances achieves the opposite effect making the presenter feel worse and accepting of poorer quality. Moreover, the audience are present, they can neither change the speaker nor your emotions so it is simply best to deliver, not apologise.

There are lots of places we need to say sorry in life; on stage is not one of them.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.