Is Forgetting Your Words on Stage a Major Public Speaking Anxiety?
YES, forgetting your words is a major source of presentation anxiety here we will start to reveal how to cure the problem but first you must understand why it happens.
When you speak to a group of people in a meeting or present on stage your communication mindset or state will naturally change. In other words, we become a different version of ourselves when in presentation situations. This state change alters and impacts how we think, feel, and speak when on stage. Furthermore, this altered mindset overwhelms even the most highly competent professional, who despite being competent in their material end up losing their train of thought and stalling mid-way through their presentation!
This fear-based reaction is psychological and physiological, the body releases adrenaline prior to and during a presentation (the fight, flight, freeze response) which alters critical communication brain neurology/ patterns/pathways. Patterns that control regular conversation are replaced by patterning that occurs when under attack! Causing the heart to race, palms to sweat, and for us to speak at an increasingly faster rate mirroring a panic attack (increasing as we speak ever faster!).
The above symptoms alone are difficult but what follows makes speaking anxiety look like a minor annoyance. Confronting the compounding effect of speaking fear, anxiety gives way to cognitive confusion or mind blankness. Human brains cannot curate messages in formal communication in the way we do unconsciously in everyday conversation, which leads to us forgetting our words or freezing when we present!
Presenters run out of speaking ‘runway’, or words to say, which amplifies the fear of public speaking and presenting even further and is a good reason why many leaders and professionals choose to avoid presenting in their careers (limiting their true professional potential).
The threat of going blank in your Presentation is Real
So, we now know that the threat of going blank in your presentation is real. Imagine the scenario, you thoroughly prepared for your presentation, you had written it all out, you rehearsed and revised it –you knew your stuff inside out.
On the day you start to present your keynote speech, you are facing a sea of expectant, at best neutral or at worst judgemental faces. You rattle through the words as speaking anxiety takes grip, you forget the main theme and as you look at your audience you get side-tracked by your inner dialogue. The creeping fear of judgment and the negative assumptions about what they may be feeling and thinking about you and your presentation start to take over. Your presentation comes to an abrupt pause as you hit a mind blank, you are completely out of thoughts and words. You feel stuck, start to say err…ummm, and then look sheepishly at the blank-faced, expectant upward staring and silent audience.
As your heart races ever faster, you start to feel the beads of sweat roll down your face and body. Worse still time stands still, and the rising temperature of intense embarrassment shows up on your reddening face. The level of doom may even induce you to wish a person would hit the fire alarm! Just anything to save you from this embarrassing death on stage moment.
Before we make this a speaking funeral! We want to offer some serious hope. Presentation fear is real but so is presentation skill the foundation of fear-free presenting. Even the greatest introverts coached appropriately in the right methods are guaranteed to overcome their fear and learn to become effective and professional presenters. And yes, many thousands of our clients have and continue to do just that!
Here we share 4 proven methods that when applied professionally guarantee you can start your fear-free speaking journey and join others on their way to presenting without the fear of going blank in their presentations!
METHOD 1 – SIMPLIFY YOUR MESSAGE
So, we now know that adrenaline impairs your ability to think on stage. The problem is compounded further by another presentation sin committed by many professionals with presentation anxiety who then over-prepare their content. Resulting in excessively detailed presentation material increasing the barriers to presentation!
Bombarding audiences with excessive detail will overwhelm, lose, and confuse you and your audiences. Most audiences do not have the baseline, or foundation knowledge you have as the speaker. They will get lost in detail, you will lose attention, and even if you manage to remember all the detail you have over delivered the message!
Many new leaders are guilty of throwing everything and hoping something sticks or get you off the hook! Whilst this may have got you your first job it’s a super poor presentation tactic. Being volume dependent critically adds pressure for you as the presenter to have a superhuman memory and contributes to presentation anxiety!
To manage this, we must learn to simplify. The first step is to challenge the assumption that audiences appreciate more volume, detail, and content. They don’t! Audiences are inherently lazy with limited attention spans, therefore make your message simple, punchy, and easy to digest.
Professionalism and confident leadership is about simplicity, clarity, and direction. And so is a great presentation:
- Less really is More!
- Brevity is Brilliance!
- Succinct means Success!
The powerful lesson above is telling you simplicity always trumps complexity. Your audience will understand, recall, and most importantly take something meaningful from a clear presentation.
When we reduce our presentation content our audiences follow us with greater ease, they are more likely to connect with you and your message. FINALLY, with less to present you are more likely to remember your words with ease and enjoyment rather than simply regurgitating!
You have just taken the first step to not forgetting your words on stage.
METHOD 2 – SPEAK IN THEMES NOT SCRIPTS
An Audience Doesn’t Know Your Script!
Most presenters end their talk thinking they’ve missed chunks out often equating this with presentation disaster! And whilst it is not ideal to miss out on parts of your presentation one relevant law stands out; “Your audience doesn’t know your script!” In other words, they do not know what you intended to include or not. It means whatever you choose to share will appear as the exact presentation you had prepared for!
Some of the best stage professionals if asked would reveal exactly this. Repeatedly watch different versions of the same performance for some of your favorite stars, motivational speakers, TV presenters or comedians and you will notice they do not repeat the same talk verbatim.
Yes, the themes or spirit of the message can be consistent, but the exact wording can move about. So, if superstar presenters are speaking in themes why are you expecting to be script perfect? This unfair expectation not only hinders many professionals from enjoying true stage freedom it restricts your level of potential impact.
To implement this method of speaking freedom you must focus on speaking in themes rather than scripts. It means you learn to speak from ideas and in and around bullet points rather than long sentences or verbatim. By making your points in a less formal and formulaic way you will appear a lot more conversational and less monotone, robotic, and rehearsed.
Speaking in themes enables you to spontaneously be flexible, and add more meaning or clarity to your points when needed. You can read your audience and provide extra information only when needed and thereby create creating a deeper connection.
During our coaching programmes we dive into extremely powerful tools that unlock the subconscious mind to enable you to speak on stage without preparation ironically introverted speakers have this in great abundance (the most powerful speaking method on earth)!
The net effect of the above approach is to allow you far greater speaking freedom away from scripts and linear messaging.
METHOD 3 – DELIVER YOUR MESSAGE IN THE MOMENT
The key here is to speak as if you are speaking LIVE in the moment. It takes a level of skill and can be learned but done well will have your audience in the palm of your hand. If you have ever been to a LIVE concert, you know there is a different level of excitement being in person and LIVE. There is a feeling of being connected to the rock star performer, the very reason why fans flock to see their superstars on stage and LIVE! As speakers, we must learn to harness this principle.
As humans, we seek connection with one another to feel at ease and content. The audience/speaker relationship is no different. A connected speaker is understood by their audience and will also benefit from a feeling of clarity when presenting and therefore less likely to forget words or speak off-topic. The deeper the connection the more present they appear and the less the need for a script.
To connect deeper we must learn to be super present when speaking. One way of achieving this is by looking your audience in the eye, by responding to their expressions, and by learning to speak on the spot. In doing so you are treating your audience as friends, you become more conversational and therefore more trusted and more authentic. This conversational approach is something that is accessed through deeper levels of training but once mastered will pave the way to the best possible presentation performance without the need for notes!
Method 4 -PLAN YOUR PRESENTATION PROFESSIONALLY
Speak. Record. Build
This is possibly the simplest but most powerful of all hacks when it comes to helping with delivering your talk without notes and committing it easily to memory!
One of the points of friction for most presenters is that they sound robotic as if they are reading off a script! Most are…because they write their presentation first. Their presentations sound like a written document, they sound formal and clunky.
The primary reason for this is that written and spoken communication whilst similar are not the same. As we say they are cousins, not twins! So, preparing your talk like a talk means building it by speaking it out loud initially.
The key idea here is to use an audio recording device (most smartphones have voice recorders) to record the first draft of your presentation. You can then use your audio recording to guide your notes or theme creation. You speak first to create rather than write first. (a huge game-changing hack!)
The nuanced difference between your writing and speaking style will reflect the flow of your presentation and therefore your ability to remember it. Think of your favorite song – did you learn the lyrics via a script…probably not, you simply sang along! Learning to build transformational talks comes from speaking out loud first and then writing before speaking again.
So, there you have it 4 extremely powerful yet successful presentation hacks that transform how we negotiate the fear of presenting and forgetting our words! If you would like to find out more about our presentation speaker coaching, do get in touch.