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Folkestone.  Not Tonbridge.

A Tip on Dealing with a Small Failure 26 May 2017

You’re busy, I’m busy.  So I try to keep my blogs to six crisp paragraphs.  Thanks for being curious about this one …

Here’s the story of a little failure that lots of people saw because it happened live on TV.

I was presenting a live election debate for the regional TV news on a glorious May evening from the beach at Hastings.  Because we were on location, there was no autocue, so it all had to be memorised.  Even so, I felt truly pampered.  I’m used to researching and preparing a lot of my own reports, but for this showpiece event I was part of a team who had already selected the guests, written me briefing sheets and typed up on smart A5 cards the names, constituencies and opinions of the politicians I’d be interviewing.

Because I’m a belt-and-braces sort of presenter (I don’t have much time for the ‘I’m-so-talentedI-can-just-busk-this’ school of broadcasting) I’d learnt the names and details by heart in the car on the hour long drive from Brighton that morning.  I’d then rehearsed them, along with all the complex issues and permutations of answers they might give, as I’d paced up and down the beach that afternoon.  And I’d rehearsed it out loud again, just to be sure, each time the cameraman and director had walked through the sequence with me in the hour before we went to air.

We then went on air.  The first item to be introduced was complex: a gesture to the sea, a bunch of facts to memorise, a phrase to insert, and all in ten seconds less than originally anticipated because of a late change.  That went fine.   And then it was time to introduce the guests.  (I didn’t even need to remember this: I had the names written down on those A5 cards.)  But that’s when I bungled it.  First name fine, second name, wrong constituency: I said Tonbridge, the candidate represented Folkestone.  Awkward on air correction required.

But here’s the lesson I learnt from this.  My perception was that I had failed, horribly, and let down the whole team.  But actually, the rest of the programme was pretty solid.  Others told me (and I don’t think they were simply being kind) that they’d barely noticed, and that as a team we’d done a decent job explaining complex issues to a voting audience that evening.  So next time you stumble during a presentation, don’t write it off.  You may yet get the job done.  (And, if you have notes on cards — don’t forget to use them!)

Want to have a go reading off my autocue — at one of my business skills workshops?  Have fun working on your deadlines at Headline Deadline in Brighton on Friday 2 June … click here for more details! 

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