Skip main navigation

Dealing with the unexpected

What do you do when faced with an unexpected situation? Here are some top tips to help you.
A presenter in a schools workshop
© Royal Observatory Greenwich

Sometimes it doesn’t matter what we do, things just go wrong. The important thing to learn is how to handle these situations.

I have presented so many sessions when things have gone wrong, sometimes quite spectacularly – it happens to us all.

I once presented a session where I needed a volunteer to put their hand in a bowl of pretend mucus. I asked for a volunteer and one enthusiastically sprang up. I explained what was about to happen to the student who was very happy to get involved….until it came time to actually do the task. She put her hand close to the pretend mucus and burst into tears in front of the whole 200 strong audience. It is never a good thing to have a crying child as part of a show. I had to think quickly as this was an integral part of the show and without it the narrative wouldn’t have made sense so I couldn’t skip it. I switched our roles around so I would be the one dunking my hand instead. The little girl enthusiastically agreed (I think to get her revenge), stopped crying and the show continued.

What I took from the experience was the importance of staying calm in the face of a show disaster. Ever since I have felt much more prepared for things going wrong like this as even though it was my nightmare at the time; I was able to fix it and keep the show going – a massive confidence boost.

What is your response when things go wrong? Share your general response or a specific example if you have it.

© Royal Observatory Greenwich
This article is from the free online

Become a Better Presenter: Improve Your Public Speaking Skills

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education