No matter what your phobia in addressing an audience, there is a reason that man’s greatest fear is public speaking: we don’t want to make a fool of ourselves. And, no matter how many courses or programs you take, no matter which techniques you use to control, eliminate, or ignore your nervousness, there is always the possibility of making a mistake while public speaking. The question is, how do you deal with it?
The answer is so simple. Employ total honesty.
This past Sunday, a man from our congregation sang the anthem and after the 2nd verse, he lost his place in the music. He stopped; he looked at the audience; he turned to the organist; and, he then proceeded to explain that he had forgotten where he was. After a brief intro by the organist, he then continued with the song. What was fascinating about this experience was that he sang better in the 2nd part than he had during the first two verses.
In the beginning of that anthem, Carl’s nervousness was so great that he was unable to sing and follow the music at the same time. By admitting his mistake, he gained so much confidence that he was able to let go and allow his voice to sing. Having not heard this man previously, I was unaware of how good his voice was until he made the mistake. For Carl, forgetting was indeed a blessing.
When I have spoken to groups in the past, there have been a few occasions in which I forgot what I was talking about. This has generally happened when I ventured away from my outline. Because my audience ‘shapes’ my presentation, I often throw in anecdotes and in doing so, I may be unsure of where I’m going afterwards.
So what have I done in the past? I stop; I breathe; and I admit that I have forgotten where I was. In the 3 or 4 times that this has happened, I immediately know how to continue, following my admission. The truth brings forth my message.
Making mistakes in live presentations is unavoidable. How you deal with it, however, will determine how successful you will be in your public speaking career.
If you are giving a presentation and you freeze or forget, don’t just stand there. You must say something. And you must say something quickly. You may be able to pull off a joke at that point (if you are good at that sort of thing); however, most people who are ‘frozen’ in fear are probably not in a situation to be funny.
I suggest that you stop; take a breath; look at your audience; admit that you have lost your place; look at your notes or your Power Point quickly; take another breath; smile and then proceed. If you follow this advice, you will know how to continue. It just works.
These words, however, come with a proviso. If you freeze or have lost your place because you don’t know your material, then the above advice will not work. Knowing your material is the most important thing you should do before ever opening your mouth to speak. If you don’t know your material, then the chances that you will make a fool of yourself are multiplied dramatically.
The saying that “honesty is the best policy” is most definitely true in public speaking. Your audience will not see you as a fool in admitting the truth. Instead, they will admire your strength and applaud your humility.
The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels is a voice specialist and president of Voice Dynamic as well as the SelfGrowth Guide for Public Speaking. Holding corporate and 2-day workshops throughout the US and Canada, she launched Voicing It! in April of 2006, the only video training course on voice improvement. You can watch clips from her DVD on her website and ‘before’ & ‘after’ takes of her clients as well as download an audio presentation in which Nancy how voice training can improve your life both professionally and personally at: www.voicedynamic.com
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