Communication Tip of the Week - Don't Apologize

At a recent Toastmasters meeting, a speaker gave a fabulous presentation on a difficult topic. She spoke from the heart and provided solid information to support her topic. She made one tiny mistake at the beginning of her speech. She started by apologizing for not being prepared.


None of us in the room would have known she put together the speech at the last minute if she hadn't mentioned it to us.

Apologizing puts the audience in a negative mindset. Regardless of how well you do, they'll be thinking, "imagine how much better this would be if the presenter had prepared." In addition, apologizing during a presentation reduces your credibility.

Opening up with an apology is like trying to teach a pig to sing: it wastes your time and annoys the pig.
- Geoff Pullum

DON'T Apologize for These Items:

Lack of preparation

Just because you didn't spend a lot of time on your speech, doesn't mean it's going to show. Plus, you don't want to put the audience in the wrong mood before starting.

Being nervous

Your audience expects nervousness. That's why your audience is watching and not presenting!

Poor slides

Your slides can always be better. Apologizing for them isn't going to make your presentation better.

Poor examples

If you're trying to explain a topic and the words aren't coming to you, don't apologize. The nervous energy we feel in a presentation causes our brains to lose connection sometimes. It's natural. Your audience is more forgiving than you think.

Not having other material

No matter how often you practice your presentation, there's going to be that one thing you'll think of in the middle of the REAL presentation that would make it better. For example, maybe a handout that gives an overview of your topic would be nice, but you don't have one. Don't apologize for not having that material. Focus on what you do have. If someone wants that kind of information, offer to send it to them after the presentation.

DO Apologize for These Items:

  1. You break the projector
  2. You accidentally hit someone
  3. You have laryngitis and can't speak loudly
  4. You set the building on fire

The next time you give or watch a presentation, notice any apologies. You'll see that it happens much more than you think.

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