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What should I do if I lose my place during my presentation?

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He was in the middle of a stirring speech when he felt he had lost his train of thought.

“Caleb, can I just take a pause?”

This was a question that was posed to me by one of my speakers at a Speakup Mastermind recently.

Of course, we let him get to his notes and get back on track.

It got me thinking, what happens when we speak in front of an audience and in the moment, we lose our place?

Here are a few suggestions and tips to keep in mind when this happens.

Take a pause.

Look a few people in the eye. Smile. Take a deep breath. If you lose your train of thought, this is an effective way of helping you calm yourself down and make it look like you own the room and you’re pausing for people to reflect on what you’ve just said.

Resist the temptation to apologise or use a filler word like ‘umm’ or ‘ahh’.

Refer to your notes for a few moments. (If you’re like me, you may like to have your notes stored in your pocket). Then make eye contact. Start your idea again. The golden rule here is that your audience will wait for you. If you have to disengage to gather your thoughts and to get back on track, I don’t believe anyone actually loses sleep over that.

Use the ‘Simon Sinek’ approach.

You can take on board what Simon Sinek says in his Skillshare masterclass on ‘Presentation Essentials: How to share ideas that inspire action’.

I told them what I was experiencing I turned to them and said, “have you ever had that experience where something goes horribly wrong and and your heart starts pounding and you start to sweat – have you ever had the experience? I’m having that right now.”

And they all started to laugh now and they were on my side. I said, “I’ve completely lost my train of thought I’m completely embarrassed, so if anyone could just help me out please I’d love that”.

Simon Sinek

Immediately your audience will feel at ease. The levity of the situation will also help you feel comfortable and you’ll be able to get back on track.

As I always say, it’s better to be present than be perfect.

What happens if you lose your place again? Surely you can’t use this line again?

And if all else fails, summarise what you’ve said in your speech and gracefully conclude.

No-one expects you to hit it out of the park every single time. Nothing worse than seeing someone labour away at a speech that they cannot complete. Best to sum up everything you’ve said to that point and end. Keep in mind, it’s only you that remembers all of what you should’ve said, no-one else.

Another benefit to this is that you’re less likely to hear complaints about your presentation finishing ahead of schedule.

Losing your place in your speech isn’t as bad as you think it is. Even with the best preparation, it can happen. There is no need to panic. Take it as an opportunity to pause, to be human and to grow.

If you’d like to put yourself in a position of growth by presenting your message, your life story or your presentation in a safe environment, consider signing up to our next Speakup Mastermind. You may find yourself losing your place – and it’ll be the best place for you to do to experience what that feels like.

Speakup Mastermind is coming up!

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The next Speakup Mastermind runs on Fridays November 8 & 15 2019 10am-11.30am at the State Library of WA.