BLOG_when things go wrongIn my last post on presentation skills, I shared 25 expressions that you could have as a bank of useful phrases to “pull out” as and when they were needed. As promised in that post, I’d like to share some survival tactics you can use for that horrible moment when things go wrong.

In Mark Powell’s excellent resource book, Presenting in English, he says that:


“Giving a presentation in a foreign language is a challenge. Concentrate too hard on the facts and you make language mistakes. Concentrate too hard on your English and you get your facts wrong.”

Does that sound familiar?  Let’s face it, when we start panicking we stop thinking in English and slip back into our native language and then it’s a real struggle to get back on track. So what can you do to handle those moments when it looks like everything is going wrong and you start to panic?

Blog_don't panicMark says not to panic. Pause. Sort out the problem and continue. Easier said than done, I hear you say. I agree but I think the key here is to pause, take a deep breath and start again.

Mark gives 8 of the most common problems people face and shows how you can deal with them.


The headline I give you is what you’re THINKING and the answer is what you can SAY to get out of the problem.

1. I’ve got my facts wrong!

  • Sorry, what I meant is this ……….”


2. Too fast! Go back.

  • So, let’s just recap on that.


3. I’ve forgotten to say something!

  • Sorry, I should just mention one thing.


4. Too complicated! Make it simple.

  • So, basically what I’m saying is this ……


5. I’m talking nonsense!

  • Sorry, perhaps I didn’t make myself clear.


6. How do you say this in English?

  • Sorry, what’s the word/expression I’m looking for? (the audience is always willing to help)


7. Wrong! Try again.

  • Let me rephrase that.

8. I’m running out of time!

  • So, just to give you the main points here.


If you learn these expressions by heart, you will be able to get out of a difficult situation automatically and, therefore, confidently.

I always say to my clients that if you have to give presentations in English, you MUST take the time to practise the presentation out loud using some of the expressions here and in my previous post. The more you practise these expressions together with your presentation, the more confident you will feel.

I hope you find these expressions helpful. Good luck with your next presentation. Let me know how it goes.

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Ciao for now


Source: Unit 1.6 p18 Presenting in English, Mark Powell (2002) Heinle , Cengage Learning