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by Kathy Reiffenstein


We apologise because we’re feeling inadequate, insecure, unprepared. We think that if we proactively point out all the things we feel aren’t good enough about our presentation and delivery, then perhaps the audience won’t judge us harshly.

Yet multiple apologies have the opposite effect: they annoy an audience and make them uncomfortable while severely compromising our credibility. When we apologise for not being prepared or for the small print on our slides that no one can read, we are doing two things: (1) drawing attention to aspects of our presentation that the audience might not otherwise notice and (2) sending the message that this audience isn’t important enough for us to do our best.


While you will definitely want to apologise for spilling hot coffee on someone or stepping on her toe, don’t you dare apologise for these four things:

1. Misspeaking — We all have the occasional slip of the tongue or we mispronounce a word. Either simply correct yourself (without apology!) or use a bridge such as “rather” to get to the correct word. [The final cost will be ten million…rather, ten billion naira.]

2. Clicking onto the Wrong Slide — Simply acknowledge the slide was out of order and move to the correct one. [That slide was out of order…here’s the correct one.] Say something humorous if you’re comfortable with that. [The PowerPoint gremlins have been rearranging my slides again.]

3. Not Covering a Topic/Not Having Sufficient Material — Bringing the audience’s attention to something that’s missing, through an apology, only highlights its absence and gives the missing piece undue importance. Either ignore it or factually and unapologetically explain why it’s missing and direct the audience where they can obtain the information.

4. Not Knowing an Answer — If after preparing your material thoroughly and anticipating what questions the audience will have, you still get asked a question you don’t know the answer to, you have nothing to apologise for. Admit you don’t know the answer and either offer to get back to the questioner with the answer or direct him to where he can find it.

These recommendations are as relevant in business meetings as they are in business presentations.

Remember…the reasons that are causing you to apologise in the first place (nervousness, feeling inadequate) are known only to you, not to your audience. By not apologising, you’ll keep it that way