It’s an old trick, but it’s a goodie: If you find yourself in a pinch and need to bounce the flash off a compact camera, grab a piece of white card (my credit card has come in more times than I care to admit – good job they wouldn’t give me a Mastercard Gold, because that would have eskewed the white balance :), and hold it at a 45° angle in front of the flash. That way, the flash will bounce via the ceiling, and you get far softer lighting than with a direct flash. It is a bit hit-and-miss, and it means that the light sensor on your compact camera has to determine that the flash has to fire with higher intensity, but it’s better than nothing.
A better solution would be to build a flash-bouncer yourself…
Which is where Reflectors & Shades comes in handy. It shows a way you can build a flash bouncer out of aluminium. The instructions apply for a Nikon 990, but the general idea is the same for all cameras.
It costs next to nothing, and the results can be significant. Bonus!