Apologies certainly have their place in our lives...just not in our presentations. As King Charles I said,
"Never make a defense or an apology until you are accused."
Wise advice, King Charles.
WHY DO PRESENTERS APOLOGIZE?
We apologize because we're feeling inadequate, insecure, unprepared. We apologize to lower the bar. 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 grate on an audience and make them uncomfortable while severely compromising our credibility. "I'm sorry" can also masquerade as a filler, in the same family as "ah" and "you know".
DON'T APOLOGIZE FOR...
While you will want to apologize for spilling hot coffee on someone or stepping on her toe, don't you dare apologize for these four things:
- 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 dollars.]
- Clicking onto the Wrong Slide -- Simply acknowledge the slide was out of order and move to the correct one. Say something humorous if you can pull it off. [The PowerPoint gremlins have been rearranging my slides again.]
- 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 rationally and unapologetically explain why it's missing and direct the audience where they can obtain the information.
- Not Knowing an Answer -- If after preparing your material thoroughly and anticipating what questions the audience will have, you still get stumped, you have nothing to apologize 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.
If you keep the wise words of King Charles in mind, it's unlikely you'll have much need for an apology in your presentations.