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Presenters say the darndest things…

- “I’m sorry but I have a cold today so my voice may sound a little funny.”

- “I just found out about this presentation yesterday, so I didn’t have as much time to prepare as I would have liked.”

- “I wanted to get copies of our reports, but couldn’t…”

- “I meant to bring…”

- “Oh, I should have told you about it earlier…”


I call these APOLOGIES, EXCUSES, and CONFESSIONS. It is always surprising how often and how easily presenters use these kinds of NEGATIVE phrases in their presentations.

Up until now, that is.

If you want to WOW your audience, you have to adopt and live by the motto:

I can tell you from experience, it isn’t easy to do--but it will serve you well in your business career.

Here’s why you should avoid these kinds of negative comments. When you APOLOGIZE, MAKE AN EXCUSE, or CONFESS at any time during your presentation, you are in essence saying to the audience, “Don’t expect a lot from me today because I’ll probably disappoint you.” It never fails to amaze me how many presenters do this before, and often many times throughout, their presentations.


The kinds of APOLOGIES I often hear in presentations go something like this: “I apologize if you can’t hear me too well, but I have a cold today.” OR “I’m sorry I didn’t bring in a sample, but I couldn’t arrange it on such short notice.” OR EVEN “I’m sorry, I forgot to tell you that earlier in my presentation.”

The truth is, if you have a cold or don’t feel well, sooner or later the audience will figure it out and because you didn’t use it as an EXCUSE for why you might not perform well, they will respect you for your effort. I have given some of my best presentations when I wasn’t feeling 100%. I attribute it to the fact that I overcompensated by really being “on.” It is possible to perform well despite feeling poorly. And, at minimum, you owe it to your audience to try!

Instead of the statement “I’m sorry I didn’t bring in a sample, but I couldn’t arrange it on such short notice,” try framing it in the positive, “I am working on getting you a sample and I can deliver it next week.” Isn’t it just as easy to PROMISE, rather than APOLOGIZE?

As for the statement, “I’m sorry, I forgot to tell you that earlier,” my question is, why would you APOLOGIZE to the audience for forgetting something they had no idea you’d forgotten? If they think you’ve done it exactly as you were “supposed” to, what possible benefit do you receive from clueing them into your error? I advise you never to APOLOGIZE for making a mistake that the audience didn’t notice first.

In the presentation context, APOLOGIES are almost always unnecessary. NEVER APOLOGIZE for anything, except perhaps if you step on an audience member’s foot or if you have so much energy that your booming voice blasts in their ear. Even then, your APOLOGY should be framed positively… “I am sorry. I am so excited to be here, I nearly broke the microphone!”


EXCUSES are things we say to eliminate the responsibility we have for our success (or lack there of it). Like APOLOGIES, EXCUSES tell your audience not to expect a lot from your presentation because you have very good reasons (i.e. the EXCUSE) for not being able to deliver.

“I just found out about this presentation yesterday so I didn’t have much time to prepare,” is a common and frankly, over used, EXCUSE. Other then telling the audience NOT to expect a lot from you because you aren’t prepared to deliver, what positive purpose does this EXCUSE serve?

Before you make another EXCUSE, remember what it feels like to be on the receiving end of someone else’s excuses. If that doesn’t stop you, I don’t know what will!


The CONFESSION is what happens when the presenter tells the audience something they have no business knowing. My favorite confession goes something like this…

“I’m really nervous today.”

The CONFESSION “I’m really nervous today” lets the audience know right off the bat that you will probably be a disappointment because you aren’t a very good presenter. It’s our strange attempt to set the bar really low.

So why do we make the CONFESSION? CONFESSING your nervousness to your audience lets you off the hook for performing well! While the audience may chuckle politely at your CONFESSION, many audience members stop listening carefully because they know that you are probably too “nervous” to meet their needs.

NEVER CONFESS to the audience your nervousness and chances are, they will not know. Remember that while anxiety feels bad, the truth is, it rarely shows. In fact, while you are worrying about your anxiety, the audience is concentrating on your message and whether or not you are meeting their needs.

I challenge you to live by the vow, NO APOLOGIES, NO EXCUSSES, NO CONFESSIONS. Your audience will thank you!

For much more about this and other Presentation Secrets, check out the book "15 Presentation Secrets: How to WOW Even the Toughest Audience," by Debbie Bailey available at trainer2go.com/ebooks.html.

About the Author

Debbie Bailey is author of the book "15 Presentation Secrets - How to WOW Even the Toughest Audience." She is well known for her life changing presentation skills classes. In addition to training at some of the most successful companies in Corporate America, Debbie has also taught Presentation Skills for United States Marines, San Diego State University, and UCLA Extension.


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