DHR’s Managing Director, Catherine Heaney, describes how her heel snapping off her shoe while she was mid-presentation turned out to be a blessing in disguise…
There is a piece of advice contained in all of DHR’s media training: if you make a mistake, or if something distracts you, admit it to your audience and move on. The idea is that you get back on track and concentrate on the issues at stake. It’s a sensible theory but, when you’re under pressure, it’s not the first thing that comes into your head.
I know that because there have been two recent public-speaking events during which the heel snapped off my shoe.
Incident number one took place on the night of DHR’s 10th anniversary celebration. There I was, swanning around meeting guests, when I felt my left foot sinking four inches to the ground. My newly acquired Alexander McQueen’s let me down badly. Luckily, on the evening, I was able to borrow my mother’s (not so high) heels and, later, my colleague Emily gave me her six-inch-high pair. That was just in time for my speech. I was tall again. Crisis averted. Though I did acknowledge the distraction to the assembled guests.
Incident number two was this week, when I was on my feet reporting to the Corporate Social Responsibility Forum on the work that the sub-group on SMEs was doing. Thanks to a pair of forgiving palazzo pants, the heel snap (LK Bennett boots) was not very apparent.
At first, I persisted in delivering my report, and then began to think about how I should exit the stage when finished. Should I just bend down, pick up my heel and limp back to my seat? Should I try to put it to the back of my mind and reveal all when the reporting was done?
I took a deep breath and told the assembled room that if my balance had slightly altered it was because I’d just experienced a heel-snap for the second time this season. After a few laughs and no audience offers of a size six pair of heels, I picked up where I left off and delivered my report, undistracted by my uneven stance.
The cycle over to the cobbler after the experience was a bit tricky but, while I waited for the repair job in my stockinged feet, I considered a number of lessons from this awkward experience:
- First and foremost, it’s always best to deal with incidental issues there and then, so you can concentrate on your message. Our DHR training advice was validated for me.
- Stilettos look great and make someone of small stature a bit more imposing. However, the case for the block heel has probably been adequately made to me in recent months or, at least, carry a spare pair.
- Incidents – such as heel snapping – can be a blessing in disguise. Levity in the board room can often be enforced or seem a bit contrived. Heel breaks could be the new ice breaker.