Have you ever seen the show Shark Tank?

If you have, then you’ve probably seen the entrepreneurs mess up their pitch. And this got me thinking…

If you’re a professional speaker and you forget your speech, what do you do? First, watch the video of this guy freezing up on Shark Tank as he gives his pitch…

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First, what makes someone freeze up like that? If you’re not too experienced with public speaking then it might just happen to you right at the moment when you need to be on the top of your game.

Speakers freeze up and forget their presentation because of stress. You might have practiced your presentation a million times but when you get in front of an audience and you start to think about how you can’t screw up because it matters…well…you start to put so much stress on your mind to a point where it makes things worse.

When your mind take something that should be automatic, and makes it a conscious effort, it’s much more likely to mess things up. What would happen if you started to consciously think about how you walk? Left foot, right foot, left foot, right…you would start walking funny…why? Because it’s not something that should be a conscious effort.

And the same happens with your presentation. You’re speaking on a stage and you’ve either prepared or you haven’t. If you didn’t prepare then you’re going to screw up anyways. If you did prepare then just jump right into it without thinking about it too much.

But that’s easier said than done. So what if this is your moment of fame? If you do this right then you will become the speaker of all speakers. You will be booked until you turn 100 and you will become a trillionaire….this is it…and then it happens…you forget what you’re suppose to talk about next. What do you do?

First, you need to create a pattern interrupt in your brain. Your mind is going crazy and you see that you’re messing up so you start freaking out even more and you mess up more and it just becomes a cycle of mess ups.

You need to stop that cycle immediately.

When you notice that you forgot something you can do a couple of things:

  • Make a joke
  • Pause
  • Improvise

If you mess up big time and everyone notices, like the guy on Shark Tank, then just make a joke about it. You can easily say, “Oh man, I forgot what I was going to say next. I hate it when that happens. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have alzheimer’s.”

Everyone has had those moments where they just forget what they wanted to say so most people are going to understand. And when you make a joke about it, you’re telling people that you’re not flustered by it.

Your audience takes their cue from you. If they see that you’re uncomfortable then they get uncomfortable and feel sorry for you. But if they noticed that you’re making fun of your bad memory then they laugh and have a good time.

Another thing you can do if you forget your presentation is to pause…like one of those wisdom pauses.

There are a couple of things that can happen when you pause. 1) You might remember what you were going to say or 2) You’re still screwed and don’t remember. If you pause and you still don’t remember then make a joke out of it by saying, “I forgot what I was going to say so I thought I would make a dramatic pause to look smart in case I remembered it.”

People will laugh and once again, you have them on your side.

One of the best things you can do when your forget is to just improvise. If you’re talking about something then more often than not, you have a lot of knowledge about the subject (if you don’t have a lot of knowledge then what are you doing talking about it?). So when you forget what comes next, just say whatever you feel like saying.

A friend of mine is a singer who has been on stages with Bruno Mars, Tyrese, and several other A-list celebrities. One day my friend was doing a little event and as he was singing on stage he starting improving the song a little and said, “I’m going to let Christina finish this off for you guys.” She was his background singer and she sang the rest of the song.

Afterwards, my friend said, “What did you think?” I thought it was great and he said that he didn’t remember the lyrics to half the songs he was singing. WHAT? It sounded like he was having a good time and the audience was having a great time. Then he said that when he let his backup singer finish the song, he only did that because he couldn’t remember anything about the song so he had her do it.

I couldn’t help but laugh because nobody could tell that he didn’t remember the lyrics to the songs…he just improvised everything.

That’s when you know you’re hanging out with a pro. A pro has the ability to improvise if things go wrong. But most people are so focused on staying on track with their presentation that they forget it and when they can’t remember it, they become the Grinch.

As a professional speaker, if you ever forget your speech on stage then the only way you can get around it is to improvise until you start to remember your speech again.

Martin Luther King Jr. improvised his “I have a dream” speech. It wasn’t that he forgot his speech because it was right there in front of him but if you look at the video then you will see MLK reading his speech up to the moment where he says, “I have a dream.” All of that was improvised.

Great speakers are more than just their speech that they memorized. When you know your stuff, you know your stuff. It’s much more important to be the embodiment of your presentation rather than to just memorize the presentation itself.

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