Public Speaking Horror Story: My Dress Is Falling Off!

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Kylie Johnson, a communications professional based in Sydney.

I was giving a workshop on the psychology of digital media. I wore a beautiful red dress, held together with a zip down the back.

It was the ultimate professional dress for a girl with an hourglass figure. No cleavage, flattering, mid length, etc.

So, there I was, sitting in front of the class talking about Jungian archetypes when I realized the dress was feeling loose. I’d lost some weight so I was congratulating myself.

Then I realized I could actually feel the air conditioning…on my back. Yes, the zip had come apart and the dress was starting to fall off.

Red Dress Woman

I rapidly went through my options. Pretending nothing was happening was clearly never going to work. The dress was about to drop off completely and this was a three-hour workshop.

There was no option but to say ‘in case you’ve failed to notice, my dress is falling off’ and make a joke of it. What happened next was wonderful.

The women ran to me with safety pins, scarves, jackets, etc. The men sat rigid in their seats and did nothing. I spoke to one of them later, and he said ‘oh, we were just waiting to see what happened next.’ Another said ‘oh, we weren’t doing nothing.’’ Bless him.

So, what did happen next? How to rescue the situation? I laughed – gave them an exercise to do and escaped (backwards) to the bathroom where I fixed up the dress as best I could. I then made the dress a running gag throughout the next three hours. Of course I sat very, very still. I had their full attention!

The result? Three new clients (no, not just the men) and an invitation to return for another workshop next month.

Someone once said, if you can’t hide a flaw, highlight it and turn it into a feature! It actually worked in my favor. No one ever forgot that workshop although I’m not sure everyone remembers what I said…

Kylie Johnson is a communications professional based in Sydney, Australia. She tweets at @ShimmmerGirl and can be found on LinkedIn.