What Were You Going To Say Next?

What can you do if your speech gets derailed?
What can you do if your speech gets derailed?
Image Credit: Lawrence Whittemore

I’m pretty sure that this has happened to all of us. We’re standing in front of an audience giving a speech and we’ve just said something clever or meaningful. We pause and get ready to go on to our next point when all of sudden we realize that we have absolutely no idea what we want to say next. This is probably the worst possible feeling that a speaker can have. What can we do now to save the situation?

Why Do We Forget Our Speech?

Forgetting our speech is something that none of us who understand the importance of public speaking want to do. Why does this happen to us? I mean, we practiced our speech enough – didn’t we? Studies have shown that when we try to memorize what we want to say in a speech, we may be setting ourselves up to have our speech derail on us. The reason for this is because when you memorize a speech you create one path to travel when you are giving your speech with no alternate paths. This means that if something throws you off your game while you are giving your speech, a new room, a new audience, then there is the possibility that you’ll forget what you want to say next.

If you want to prevent situations like this from happening, you need take a different tactic when you are preparing for your speech. Memorizing your speech is the wrong way to prepare. A much better approach is to internalize your speech, don’t memorize it. If you can prepare this way you can reduce your chances of having your next speech derail on you. We all know that things can still happen when we are giving a speech. However, if we have speech recovery tactics in place will allow us to reduce the amount of anxiety that we might be feeling. Additionally, if we go in with a plan, then if we do have a memory lapse, there is a good chance that our audience will never know.

How To Recover From A Speech Derailment

When you find yourself in a situation where you have had your speech run away from you and you are not sure what to do next, the very first thing that you are going to want to do is to pause. Your speech probably already has pauses built into it and so adding another pause will not seem that unusual to your audience – they won’t know what has happened to you. This pause will give you a moment to try to remember just exactly where you were in your speech.

The next thing that you can do is to rewind your speech. One of the simplest things that you can do is to repeat the last thing that you said. The benefit of doing this is that at the same time you will be buying yourself some time and you will be delivering a bit of a “zap” to your brain to see if it causes it to remember where you were in your speech. When you are constructing your speech, you can build in help by making the phrase that you end a sentence with the starting phrase for the next sentence. This will allow you to remember where you were just by completing the previous sentence.

When you are drawing a blank as your speech derails, one other technique you might give a try is to jump ahead in your speech. Sure, you don’t remember where you are in your speech right now, but perhaps you do remember a part that is further into your speech. Jump to that piece and continue. If later on you remember what you were going to say, you can always come back to it and work it into your speech.

What All Of This Means For You

As speakers, the one thing that we all dread is finding ourselves in a position where we are delivering a speech only to have our mind go blank. If we’re not careful, an event like this can derail our speech and we won’t be able to provide the audience with the benefits of public speaking. What we need to do is to take steps to prevent this from happening in the first place and then make sure that we have speech recovery tactics that we can use to quickly get our speech back on track.

If you are giving a speech and you all of sudden realize that you have no idea what you want to say next, you can pause to collect your thoughts. You will already be pausing as a part of your speech and so your audience won’t notice anything out of the ordinary. The next thing that you can do is to rewind your speech and say again something that you have already said. This may allow your brain to remember what comes next. Finally, if you need to you can fast forward and jump further into your speech to a point that you do remember and start from then. If later you remember what you forgot, you can always go back and add it in.

Every speech that we give is a performance. We are the actor and the audience has come to see us. We need to understand that it’s always possible that our speech can get derailed and if that starts to happen, we need to be ready to take action. Make sure that you have the speech recovery tactics that you need to make sure that your speech stays on the rails and gets you to your destination.

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

Question For You: How long of a pause do you think that you can take in order to try to recover your thoughts?

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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 www.Toastmasters.org. 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

Honesty is soooo overrated. When we are asked to give a speech, we know what we need to do in order to deliver a good speech. We need to make sure that we know who will be in the audience, we have to sit down and create a speech that will allow us use the importance of public speaking to connect with our audience, and then we have to get up there and deliver it in a way that will allow us to clearly communicate what we are trying to say. How hard could all of that be to do? It turns out that it becomes a lot harder when we are telling ourselves things that just are not true. Our lies can have a negative impact on our speech and we really should stop saying things like this to ourselves.