As Robert Burns so wisely pointed out, the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry. Hard as it may be for control freaks like me to accept, this is the way it is and, when the odds are stacked against us, all we can do is the best we can in the circumstances. This is true across the board, actually, but here we’re talking about public speaking.
Of course, we do everything possible to prevent mishaps and to prepare for success: we check out the venue in advance, we make sure all the equipment is working, we make contingency plans for all conceivable eventualities. But sometimes, even then, our speech or presentation turns out to be less of the dazzling display we hoped for and more of a damp squib.
What should have been a rousing patriotic rally at an otherwise marvellous day I attended to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee went soggy in the rain. People started to drift off, rather than stand out in the open getting wet and chilly; those who stayed put up umbrellas, so only the front couple of rows could see the stage; the wet got into the machinery and reduced the power of the microphone, so the speaker struggled to make himself heard over the noise of the fairground rides on the other side of the field.
In these sorts of situations, it can be easy to be embarrassed and to feel we have failed, when in fact the problems were down purely to bad luck. If we let this type of experience undermine our confidence, it will be difficult to regain it, since we can only realistically have confidence in our own abilities. That wonderful prayer
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference
applies just as much to public speaking as it does to anything else.