It's okay to stop what you're doing and start over if you need to, as long as you do it the right way.
If you watched the Grammys last night, you know the night was *all* about Adele. Though it was also a big night for other stars like Beyoncé, Adele won all five of the awards she was nominated for (including Album, Record, and Song of the Year) and performed not once, but twice. And we all know there's nothing quite like an Adele Grammy performance. While her rendition of "Hello" was pretty much flawless, her tribute to the late George Michael got off to a rocky start. (Related: Adele gets real about getting healthy.)
— People Magazine (@people) February 13, 2017
After getting through the first verse and having some microphone issues, the star stopped the performance and said, "I know it's live TV. I can't do it again like last year. I'm sorry for swearing and I'm sorry for starting again. Can we please start again? I'm sorry, I can't mess this up for him." The supportive crowd seemed more than understanding. In true Adele fashion, she managed to pull off making what many performers would consider to be a huge mistake with grace and poise. The best part? The reviews of her tribute have been overwhelmingly positive. Though people are talking about what happened, it seems like people really appreciate the courage it took for her to stop and start again, this time on the right foot, and aren't criticizing her for not getting it right the first time. (Shocking considering all the usual internet haters!)
The way she handled the situation, which would be difficult for anyone, made us wonder if we could treat missteps in our everyday lives the same way.
Sure, we all hope to start every big presentation at work or maid of honor speech out on the right foot, but what if you know from the beginning it's not going as you planned? Is it better to stop and take Adele's 'stop and reset' approach? We asked an expert to get to the bottom of it. Here, her tips for avoiding this kind of situation in the first place—and how to fix it when those fumbles inevitably happen.
1. Know that mistakes (and anxiety about them) are common in high-pressure situations.
In case you thought you were the only one who gets freaked out before speaking or performing publicly, know that it's 100 percent normal to feel nervous beforehand, no matter what the context. "This issue comes up frequently with my clients," says Lyssa Menard, Ph.D., a psychologist and business coach. "As people move up in their organization and have increased exposure, anxiety tends to rear its ugly head." The same goes for giving speeches outside of work, like at a family gathering. It takes both time and practice to get used to this kind of public attention, especially since it involves allowing yourself to be vulnerable. However, a major part of the practice it takes to get better at speaking and presenting is learning the difference between something only you notice went wrong and a real problem that everyone will notice, Menard adds. But simply knowing that it's normal not to immediately be a pro at public speaking and performing can be comforting.
2. Prepare as much as you can in advance.
It goes without saying that preparation is key. Practice your speech, presentation, or performance until you feel comfortable with the material. You can even videotape it and critique yourself or ask a trusted friend or colleague to give you feedback. Aside from that, "the best thing you can do prior to an event is to learn anxiety management techniques," says Menard. "If you have at least a little skill with deep breathing, meditation, or muscle relaxation, you can use it to your advantage before, during and after the event to stay calm and focused." (Need some help getting started? This 20-minute guided meditation for beginners will melt away all your stress.)
3. Don't let yourself spiral.
In the moment, if it feels like things are going wrong, try to just slow down and breathe. "Remember that your audience is human. Even if they're powerful, they're just people like you, people who also make mistakes, as all humans do," says Menard. It's also crucial to remember that no matter what you're getting up in front of people to do, your life isn't riding on it. "No matter how important this moment seems, you will go on to survive and thrive and there will be more big moments in your life," she explains. "That's all this is: a moment. It doesn't define you." When you think about it that way, it's easier to let go of your nerves.
4. If you need to restart, just do it.
So if you're majorly flubbing your speech or you realized you missed several important slides in your presentation, what can you do? First, ask yourself how serious it really is. Can you get back on track? Is there any way to turn things around? If not, Menard says that the Adele Grammy performance technique is totally appropriate. "If you know you can't recover and it's important to correct for an error, it's fine to start over," she says. "The best way you can do this is with humility and even a bit of humor. Adele said that she needed to do it right for George Michael. This wasn't about Adele and her perfectionist tendencies. It was about honoring George Michael." That's a really good reason, if you ask us. So if you find yourself in this situation, Menard recommends you stop, smile, and ask for a do-over. You can say something like, "I'd like to get this right, so do you mind if I start over?" It's highly likely that everyone in the audience will understand.