Have you ever been in a situation where you are speaking and suddenly you stop mid-sentence, your mind goes blank, you fumble over your words and then forget to say something critical? You freeze. You feel your face turn red with humiliation when you realise everybody is looking right at you and wish you could just disappear, or the ground to open up and swallow you!
For the next few minutes (or what feels like hours!) many of us feel exposed, disappointed and our mind starts playing tricks on us. Why me?! What are people going to think? How do I fix this?! How embarrassing!
These mind games exert so much pressure on us that it often fuels the nerves we feel. Nerves, like it or not, are here to stay and it’s in our best interest to embrace them and help ward off the mind games. Easier said than done, right? Over the years of developing my skills as a speaker, I keep reminding myself of these three key concepts which help to manage those mind games.
No matter the size of your audience or how well they know you, not a single person has a clue about what you are going to say. Sure, they’ve all come to listen to you speak but nobody knows what your next word is or how you intend to craft your talk. Unless people have an exact script of your talk (which I don’t recommend you ever do), it’s impossible to predict the future in this context. Therefore, don’t beat yourself up over something you forgot to mention because the truth is, nobody has a clue and it probably wouldn’t have affected your presentation flow. If it’s something critical which needs to be said, just finish delivering your sentence and then go back to include that missing piece.
Have you ever seen somebody apologise and then temporarily fumble while they try and pull themselves back on track? To the person watching, it might seem totally fine but to the person speaking, it can be quite crushing. As a speaker, keep reminding yourself that nobody knows if you have made a mistake, forgotten something or simply got your points in the wrong order. If that does happen, there is no need to apologise because only you know (see point one). You have done nothing wrong and the only person who sees fault in your “error” is you – so avoid putting yourself in that uncomfortable situation and continue as normal.
Sometimes we get thrown off by things like a phone ringing or two people talking during your presentation. While you are in flow, things out of your control can happen and if that does, don’t let it affect you. In fact, use that to your advantage. Not only does it take the attention off you temporarily and make the culprits feel a little discomfited, but it gives you time to pause, breathe and refocus. It’s sometimes the perfect opportunity to take a few seconds and remind yourself that “you got this” and nothing can throw you off. Chances are everybody else in the room will be thinking the same thing you are, “Phone ringing – that person owes us a carton of beer!”
Mind games are often a manifestation of fear and nerves. It’s important to constantly remind yourself that’s all it is – mind games in YOUR mind. Nobody knows what’s going on in your head, so always take comfort in the fact that even if you do make a mistake, you can still sound confident in what you were talking about.