Oh dear. If you’ve been following the news of Jeremy Hunt’s recent visit to China – and Twitter was absolutely agog with it – then you would have noticed that to ingratiate himself with his hosts, Jeremy drew attention to the fact that his own wife was Japanese.
You wouldn’t think it would be possible to accidentally mistake your partner of over a decade for a different nationality, particularly one with such a difficult political history as China and Japan, but poor old Jeremy managed it.
Whether you agree with his politics or not, Jeremy Hunt is now experiencing any business’ worst nightmare: a gaffe or mistake that is innocently intended, but has left the brand name in dispute, trending on social media for the wrong reasons, and potentially upsetting the very people that you want to impress.
It doesn’t matter if your company has made this type of mistake before. It’s bound to happen at some time, and the best thing to do is be prepared for it. Here’s how you can (almost) futureproof your company from spoken blunders:
1. Script and rehearse.
Knowing what you are going to say inside out will help to prevent you from stumbling over those words and accidentally saying something else. Now to be clear, I’m not saying to memorise your lines and recite them like an automaton, but the more comfortable you are with your material, the more likely you are to stick to it.
2. Look for potential errors.
Any tongue twisters in there? Any abbreviations which could sound like a rude word? Any rhymes that could make you sound a bit ridiculous? If you can spot these ahead of time, it makes it all the easier to replace them with something a little more professional.
3. Agree when you’ll be live.
Not everyone is comfortable being live in front of an audience, and not everyone gets a choice. If you do have an element of control, or you are given the option of recording, editing, and then broadcasting, that may be the best choice to prevent any mistakes slipping through.
4. Correct immediately.
Why won’t the floor swallow me up? If you do make a mistake and you notice, correct immediately, even if it means extending your embarrassment in the moment. You’ll look far more switched on and aware, and trying to apologise or correct hours later in a different medium will just increase the distance you’ve created between yourself and your audience.
5. Smile and wave, boys.
Life in the public eye can be uncomfortable. Whether you’re a CEO, founder, spokesperson, or got caught unawares, when the chips are down, all you can do is smile. Being able to smile through the pain demonstrates to the world that you are serious about your company, happy to face the music, and strong enough to weather the storms.
- You may like: Opinion: Technology doesn’t need to change. We do.