You're an expert in your field who's been asked to join a panel on the latest techniques for achieving specific goals. You've done your research and chosen some of the most recent, cutting-edge practices that you use with your own clients. You've prepared carefully, your bullet points are all in a row, and you've even planned ahead for any objections to your conclusions. All systems are go.
You're the next to last speaker, so you're listening carefully to what the other panelists have to say. To your horror, one of the speakers ahead of you has chosen a similar point of view, even used some of the same examples, and said almost exactly what you were going to say! What are you going to do? You have just a few minutes to completely revamp your remarks so that you don't sound like a trained parrot or an unprepared copycat riding the coattails of the speaker who came before.
Fortunately, this particular nightmare doesn't happen often, but knowing how to deal with it is a technique that should be in your speaker's toolbox. The good news is that you can handle it with just a few tweaks to the comments you were planning to give anyway.
What can you do and how fast can you do it?
First of all, stay calm! It only feels like a disaster. You're still in control of your part of the program. Say to yourself: "I can do this! I am in control!"
Take a deep breath. Then take another. Deep breathing will keep your heartbeat down around normal which will allow the next important step.
Think! Focus! Ask yourself, "How can I turn this Volkswagon into a Mercedes-Benz?"
There are a number of things you can do to differentiate yourself from the previous speaker.
Select the points you were planning to present that have not already been said. Tweak them so they become the focus of your remarks. Jot them down on a few notes or keep them in your head, whichever works best. If you can, add some of the points you'd previously decided to omit when you were preparing your speech.
When it's your turn, tell the truth. Admit that there are similarities in your approach to that of the previous speaker. Great minds do run in similar paths.
Compliment yourself and the other speaker for being on the same wave length and having a similar point of view. Avoid saying anything negative about either one of you. Create the feeling that you're friends, not enemies. The audience will admire you for your candor and generosity.
Piggyback your points onto what's already been said by delving deeper and expanding on your information. Segue from those points to yours using simple transition phrases like, "In addition to (what was said), it's also important to know that..." and "Along with (what was said), we should also be concerned about..." or a simple, "Goal setting, as we know, is different for every individual, and thus..."
Keep smiling. The audience doesn't know this isn't the way you planned it. They'll never suspect you're anything but absolutely confident and knowledgeable. And you'll be proud of your cool head in a crisis.