How Public Speakers Can Deal With A Lost Train Of Thought

If you forget what you want to say next then your speech can go off its tracks.
If you forget what you want to say next then your speech can go off its tracks.
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I’m not sure if it’s because I’m getting older or if there is some other reason for it, but more than once when I’ve been about half-way through a speech, I’ve lost my train of thought. I mean it was just there – I knew what I wanted to say and then poof – it was gone. Not only is this annoying, but depending on the importance of your audience and your speech, it can be downright terrifying!

Picture It In Your Mind

With a little luck, you have practiced for the speech that you are currently giving when your train of thought leaves you – we all understand the importance of public speaking, right?. This is good news because what it means is that your mind is filled with pictures that should be able to help you to get back on track.

What you’re going to have to do when you lose your place is to stop, and then try to picture in your mind’s eye what you saw when you were practicing your speech. Think about the outline that you had created – did you put it on 3×5 file cards or was it printed out on a sheet of paper? Think about the last thing that you just said and let the picture of what was next on your list come floating back into your mind.

Let’s Get Physical

The wonderful thing about giving a speech is that your audience already expects you to be using physical gestures as a part of your speech. What that means for you is that if you lose your spot when you’re giving your speech, you can stop the show and go physical.

The whole purpose of a physical gesture at this point-in-time is simply to buy you some time to remember what comes next in your speech. You can pause and appear to be in the middle of a deep thought, you can appear to be thinking of just exactly what the correct next word should be, and you could raise your hands up to the sky as if asking for just a bit of help. Ham it up and then laugh along with your audience and you’ll find that you have all of the time that you need to get back on track.

Time For Some Humor

When you find yourself off the tracks, you can always turn to your good friend Mr. Humor to help you out. The great thing about making a joke is that humor can be inserted into a speech at any point-in-time and your audience won’t view it as being out-of-place.

It can be very hard to come up with something humorous to say just after you’ve realized that you’ve lost your spot. In order to take the pressure off of you, identify something humorous that you can say before your speech starts. Pick a generic humorous statement about your speech topic or about some characteristic of your audience. Practice what you would say and then if you need it, the words will roll off of your lips and appear to be part of your speech to your audience.

What All Of This Means For You

I wish that I could tell you that I’ve never forgotten what I wanted to say next while giving a speech, but that just wouldn’t be true. I have forgotten the next thing that I wanted to say many times and I fully understand the sense of panic that we all feel when this happens.

The next time that you lose your train of thought, you need to take action – any type of action! One of the benefits of public speaking is that this situation can be recovered from. Your possibilities include tapping into your visual memory, getting physical, and even using the time to tell your audience a joke or a funny story.

Losing your train of thought happens to all of us. It’s not the end of the world. Instead, we need to treat this as what it is – just another event that can occur during a presentation. As public speakers we need to be prepared to deal with it and know how to handle it when it happens. Trains will go off their tracks, it’s how quickly that we can get them back on the track that really matters!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: When you lose your train of thought, do you think that you should tell your audience that its happened?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Congratulations, you’ve been asked to give a speech. Were you thinking about using some PowerPoint or Keynote slides with that presentation? Ok, we all know about the importance of public speaking and so that sounds like a good idea. One quick question about those slides that you’re going to be making – do you know how to make the data that you are going to be presenting memorable or is it just going to be forgettable?