Have you ever screwed up a talk or high-stakes presentation? You thought it would be fine, had a plan, did well in practice runs, but under pressure you fell apart and fell flat. In short: you choked.
According to publicspeakingpower.com “When we fear public speaking or are required to give a speech you may ask yourself why is public speaking important? Believe it or not but public speaking is one of the most important skills you will ever develop in your life.”
Public speaking is so important that it could be the deciding factor in many things such as your career development, your business growth and even in the relationships you have with your friends and family.
Public speaking is a skill worth learning.
Jerry Seinfeld once joked that for most people, the fear of public speaking ranks higher than the fear of death: “This means to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
Many times we practice in front of the mirror and we do a great job and we begin to feel confident but once you get to the platform or even the front of the room you freak out internally. And as you continue the speech many times it wont flow as you had practiced and then out of the blue you mess up!
You blank out and forget everything or you stutter or mumble really badly. Now what?
What can you do if you mess up at you next speech?
1) Just Back up.
- Summarize the point you just finished making. Often, repeating your previous point, like retracing your steps before taking a leap, will give you momentum to carry you forward.
2) Check your notes and relax.
- Usually speakers begin the speech without notes, but it’s always a good idea to leave the outline within easy reach. A good place is probably inside of your suit jacket or even on stage next to your water or inside of your bag.
- Another idea could be just to write the main ideas on a small piece of paper or business card and leave it in your pocket. You may never need it, but just knowing it’s there will make you breathe easier.
3) Ask your audience for help, it’s no big deal.
- Say, “I got so caught up in what I was saying that I lost my place. Where was I?” And as you ask the audience you then begin to have some type of audience participation and someone will tell you. And once they tell you can notice who really is paying attention and you can continue.
- Another great thing about this method is that you look like you’re in control! You confidently stated that you went blank and you would like some help.
- Or you can say that you need someone to remind you because you forgot and after they tell you where you were you can either say: “I was just testing you guys, don’t be falling asleep” or ” OK thank you so much after the speech remind me to give you a coke (or even a small snack).” People will then want to listen because now they have a small, fun incentive to listen to you.
- Once when I was speaking to a large audience, I completely froze. “My mind has gone blank,” I admitted to the group. “Have you ever had that happen? You’ve got something really, really, really important you want to say, and you just blank out?” “Doesn’t that frustrate you?” And you feel it at the tip of your tongue, but no words will come out! Some people nodded their heads, a few people laughed in a friendly way, and I laughed too. Then I relaxed, my mind started working again, and I resumed my speech.
4) Say something
- Say anything. The longer you remain silent, grasping for exactly the right word, the more your anxiety (and the audience’s) will grow. Try to recall anything relevant to your speech even if its repeating a particular sentence. Once you begin talking, your memory will most likely kick into gear.
But the ultimate secret is…
Just keep going. We all mess up no whatever how many years of experience you have at delivering speeches we will all mess up. We are imperfect. There’s nothing to worry about! People won’t judge you negatively! Everybody is just like you…
In fact you can take the occasion in which you mess up and use it to be appreciated by your public. Just don’t take it too seriously. When you mess up the audience can connect with you because everyone at some point has felt the same exact way!