“Oops!” ― 5 Ways to Recover from a Brain Freeze in a Presentation
Why take the chance of needing a quick-as-a-wink response in a questionable public speaking moment? Wouldn’t it be better to arm yourself beforehand so you have strategies in place to avoid the mistake altogether? I think it is. Here, then, are five approaches to get you on more solid ground when those all-too-human errors rear their heads:
1. Never lose your composure in the first place. Recovering anything that you’ve lost is tough. Why not keep it from getting lost in the first
place? Then, when that goof occurs, you’ll be much better poised to a) regain your momentum, or b) avoid the appearance of a mistake altogether. You can do this in three ways: (1) Breathe diaphragmatically, i.e., “belly breathe”, (2) Use supportive body language, and (3) Control your pace and tempo. Together, this threesome of composure skills will give you the look, sound, and (from your point of view) feel of control.
2. Go forward, without drawing attention “back” to your mistake. If you trip over words, simply say the thing again using the right words. If your manuscript drops to the floor and scatters, pick it up and take the time you need to get the pages in the right order again. Saying something like, “Wow, I can’t talk tonight!” or “I’m such a klutz!” draws attention back to your “Oops” moment and also prolongs it. Go on, already!
3. Be open, not hiding. One of the things that creates acute self-consciousness is trying to cover up for what and who we really are. There may be many reasons for this, but whatever the cause, trying to hide from your audience is an impossibility. If you are defensive or trying to be better than you really are, you’ll be fragile, and recovering will be that much more difficult. Stay vulnerable with audiences. They’ll like you more, and feel that you’re a person they can trust. That adds up to priceless credibility.
4. Live in the present moment. The here-and-now of your speech is really all you have to reach audiences. Shakespeare’s plays may be exciting to read now―but think how much more powerful they must have been when performed at the Globe playhouse in 1599. Stage presence for a speaker more than anything means being fully present. If you’re 100% present, it’s a surer bet that something of value will take place. It also means you’ll be much less likely to make a mistake (often due to lack of focus) in the first place. How do you achieve that level of presence? Invest yourself completely in your audience’s needs rather than your own. Most likely, your talk will flow organically and easily.
5. See your speech as a chance to communicate, not to excel. Try to be “excellent” and you’ll probably never get there. Do your best to get your message across to listeners, on the other hand, and there’ll be nothing to stop you. The paradox of acting comes perfectly into play in this context: Audiences believe an actor is a character in a play or movie not because of artifice, but because of truth. The actor is true to every moment in the life of that character as it unfolds. If you’re true to the communication situation, you hardly can make a mistake. And if you do make one, well, it won’t matter, will it?
Brandon K. Hardison Champion Strategies