I don’t remember when it was but one time Harper and I got talking about public speaking and performance. We were with a group of people and Harper mentioned that his time spent performing as a juggler taught him how to react when something goes wrong. Jugglers call them Drop Lines. What you say when you fail. I have been thinking about this quite a bit since I have been performing more and more. A good drop line will save your act.
While I like to think that I am an amazing juggler I drop a lot. I have upped my practice regimen to hopefully change this but alas I still drop a lot. The perfect drop line is dependent on the prop you are using and your audience. For instance, when I drop a juggling club I say “That was on purpose so I could show you this” and I then do a kick up into juggling(which looks as cool as it sounds). If I drop again I say “For those of you that missed it last time” and then I do the same thing.
This works because while I am pretty sure that the audience doesn’t believe that I did it on purpose I covered in a way that makes it seem like maybe I did. It keeps them on their toes and gives them something else to think about. They don’t think about how I just failed but about how I handled that failure.
The hardest part about drop lines is that you have to plan on failing. You have to look at the presentation you are about to give and think “What will I do if X happens.” This is hard to do because everyone hates failure. Luckily drop lines get easier the more you have to do them plus as you make more and more presentations you fail less often. But how do you plan for failure?
I have found it best to think of what the absolute worst thing that could happen during your presentation. Typically for me this is when I drop on a simple trick. Though truth be told it would probably be lighting myself or someone else on fire. After you have brainstormed everything that could go wrong figure out how you will handle that situation.
There is no right way to handle a drop or failure. However, there is a wrong way. The number one wrong way is to get frustrated or angry. I always tell myself that if I get frustrated the juggling prop has won. Keep that in mind. Most likely nothing horrible will happen to you if you screw up so just go with it. Sometimes the easiest way to handle a failure is to own up to it and move on. Don’t make excuses (unless they are hilarious) and don’t pretend like nothing happened. Because everyone saw it happen. But also remember that you are in charge of your time during your presentation. Don’t get flustered and let the focus be that you screwed up.
Remember that you and every member of the audience are human.