Speaking from a lectern in front of a crowd can be nerve-wracking and the pressure to perform is often overwhelming. In the end, no matter how competent we are, errors and memory lapses can still happen when giving a speech. Rather than let these moments derail your speech, knowing how to recover from them is essential for developing as an effective public speaker. Here are five ways you can use to get back on track after having a memory lapse during your speech:
1. Take a Moment and Breathe
When you experience a memory lapse, the worst thing to do is panic. This can cause your mind to freeze up in an attempt to remember what comes next and make it even harder for you to recall your original thoughts. Instead of getting overwhelmed, take a deep breath and relax. Although this may seem counterintuitive, allowing yourself some time will allow your brain to reset itself so that you can get back on track with your speech.
2. Look At Your Notes
If you have notes or slides prepared for your talk, take a glance at them. This will help to jog your memory and provide an effective way of finding the next topic in your speech. However, it is important not to rely too heavily on these notes as they can distract from your overall message and make you seem unprepared. If you’re using a lectern, use the top of it to rest your notes so that you can still maintain eye contact with your audience.
3. Move On
When all else fails, sometimes the best approach is just to move on from the point where you got lost and continue with other aspects of your presentation. If possible, try weaving in any points that were missed into later portions of your speech so that the audience still gets all of the information you wanted to share. In some cases, it may be best to skip over certain sections and come back to them later on.
4. Make a Joke
Making light of your situation can often help break any tension in the room and put everyone at ease. Of course, this should only be done when appropriate; otherwise, it can take away from the seriousness or professionalism of your speech. If used correctly though, cracking a joke about forgetting part of your presentation is an effective way to get yourself out of an awkward spot while also establishing a connection with your listeners.
5. Learn From Your Mistakes
No matter how uncomfortable these memory lapses make us feel, it’s important to remember that they are part of the learning process. Take the time to reflect on what happened and figure out ways you can improve for next time. This could be something as simple as writing down your points ahead of time or practicing more frequently so that your words become second nature. By doing this, you will be better prepared for any future speaking engagements and make sure that a memory lapse doesn’t derail your presentation again!
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