Admittedly, part of the difficulty for many in presenting is just this fear. It happens to lots of speakers; it has certainly happened to me. Even with notes or some form of visual aid upon which to refer, however, you may find yourself at a total loss as to how to continue. What is the answer?

Total honesty. I know this may sound odd, but I have found from the few times it has happened to me, that in the amount of time it takes to confront the audience with the truth – yes, I forgot what I was talking about – a thought or a lead or even the words I couldn’t find before, magically come to mind.

Why does this work? Because I do not allow my loss of words or the forgetting of where I am to throw me, upset me or bother me. Everyone in public speaking makes mistakes. If they do not, then it is only because they have memorized their words and were lucky enough to have gotten through the entire piece without a mistake. However, those who memorize their speech or presentation sound rote. Their delivery lacks in communication with the audience and essentially they are just spitting out a pile of words without taking into account the feedback from their audience.

A memorized piece is called acting; and, acting is entertainment. Public speaking, on the other hand, involves communicating your thoughts, your ideas, your sentiments with an enthusiasm and passion to an audience. Public speaking involves the thinking of your audience. While I would certainly advocate an entertaining presentation, your primary goal is not to entertain but to inform or to persuade.

If you have gone over your material and are very familiar with its layout and the order of your major points, then forgetting where you are will be easier to handle than if you are unpracticed. Yes, it can be disconcerting when you don’t know how to continue; but, if you learn how to breathe with the support of your diaphragm, thereby taking control of your nervousness, you will gain the presence to confront your audience and admit that you are lost. That admission can be enough to allow you to gather your thoughts and continue.

No one in the audience is expecting or wishing you to fail. They are also not looking for perfection in your delivery. Allow for total honesty in all aspects of your presentation and your audience will be moved by your humility and sincerity. If you do forget, do not dwell on the mistake but move on. If you can deliver a dynamic presentation that captivates your audience, they won’t remember the error.

Author's Bio: 

The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels offers private, group and corporate training in voice and presentation skills as well as Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. Visit her website at Voice Dynamic and watch as Nancy describes the best means of controlling nervousness in any form of public speaking.

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