Flipping the script, making lemonade out of lemons, finding the silver lining. Whatever you call it, it’s an important skill to have. All of us have been in situations where we have to find the good amidst things that are less than ideal. If you have to give a presentation under adversity, you are going to need some strategies to come out ahead.
Let’s look at two examples from former American presidents who showed us how it can be done. From Ronald Reagan we’ll discover how to respond creatively when others voice doubts about us. And from JFK, we’ll learn how reframe the negative into a positive.
Ronald Reagan: Respond to Adversity With Creativity
At the time of the 1984 presidential debates many people were saying that Ronald Reagan was too old to be running for president. When the moderator of the debate brought this concern to the forefront, Reagan not only flipped the script, he made everyone laugh while doing so. His opponent included. He said, “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”
This example shows that there is still room for humor in the midst of adversity. Reagan answered in a way that was unexpected and creative. Had he answered the question with a serious response like, “I am completely equipped to handle this office despite being older than my candidate,” the response would have been noted but would have been lost in the rest of the debate. But his response not only answered the question, but it demonstrated creativity, tact, and humor. Something his audience, and his voters, responded to favorably.
John F. Kennedy: Make the Challenge Positive
In September of 1962, JFK gave his infamous “moon speech” at Rice University. During that speech he said, “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
These particular lines resonate because they don’t deny that the mission is difficult. While most presenters aren’t talking about landing a man on the moon, they no doubt have to address issues which feel just as daunting in the moment. In which case they can take this lesson from JFK: make the challenge a positive. Show how facing and embracing these types of challenges can lead to greater skill development, better problem solving strategies, and inspiring overcomer stories.
There are many, many more examples of great men and women who spoke during times of adversity beause we don’t just give presentations and speeches when things are going great. The skills of public speaking and strategies for presenting are perhaps especially important when inevitable challenges arise. But we can continue to learn from others who have risen to the occasion in these types of situations. Who flipped the script. Made the lemonade. Pointed to the silver lining. So that when our time comes, we are ready.