You're an expert on classical literature who's been asked to join a panel on why 19th century women authors are relevant and influential to 21st century readers. Your premise is that these women of another age wrote about heroines who would fit quite naturally into our modern era with perhaps just a change of clothes and a chance to go to law school. 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 listen carefully to what the other panellists have to say. To your horror, one of the speakers ahead of you has chosen a similar point of view, even used 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 mimic, a trained parrot, or an unprepared copycat riding the coattails of the speaker who came before.
Fortunately, this particular nightmare doesn't happen very 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.
First, don't panic! 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!"
Secondly, take a deep breath. 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 lemon into lemonade?"
There are a number of things you can do to differentiate yourself from the previous speaker. Locate the points in your talk that have not already been said. Tweak them so that they become the focus of your remarks. Jot them down on a few notes or keep them in your head, whichever works best. Add some of the points you'd previously decided to leave out when you were preparing your speech. When it's your turn, here are some ways to use them:
1) Tell the truth. Admit that there are similarities in your approach to that of the previous speaker. Great minds do run in similar paths.
2) Compliment yourself and her for being on the same wave length and having a similar point of view. Avoid saying anything negative about yourself or her. Create the feeling that you're friends, not enemies. The audience will admire you for your candour and generosity.
3) Piggyback your points onto her positions by delving deeper and expanding on your information. Segue from her 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), the author was also extremely concerned about..." and a simple, "Writing in the 19th century, as you might know, was also..."
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.