What Should You Do If You Forget Your Next Words?

by Janice Tomich

Have You Ever Forgotten Your Lines During a Presentation?

“It was an okay performance,” she said. “No”, I told her, “It was brilliant”. I knew what she was thinking. She thought that having to stop halfway through her story to gather her thoughts to retrieve her next few lines had made her presentation not as perfect as planned.

Nothing could have been further from the truth.

Career coach, Lara Marchionni, had been working with me for a few months on the story she told at the Dress for Success Bounce event – Moving Stories of Moving Forward. She is a force to be reckoned with. The energy that exudes from her and the things that she makes happen are beyond brilliant.

In just a few months, Lara developed and is delivering a course for women that are working in unfulfilling jobs to support them to bring in a second income. An income that potentially will become their primary one and give them more joy (and cash!). As of today and not even halfway through the course the women are making substantial progress and many are already bringing in additional income. With support from Lara and many of the program’s coaches, the women are confidently moving into the unknown, knowing that they may fall and will need to pick themselves up again.

Delivering a presentation can be like walking on a tightrope and sometimes even though we practice we will forget our lines.

While telling her story on the Cultch stage, Lara visually demonstrated walking a tightrope to show the delicate balance of resiliency. She delivered the first half of her story without missing a beat. Then I saw her hesitate and could see that she was a bit wobbly and searching for her next few lines.

Before I share with you how Lara brilliantly ‘found’ her next lines I want to provide some insight into what was (likely) going through the minds from the audiences’ perspective. I know that many were silently cheering her on and with open hearts were supporting her. They put themselves in her shoes and imagined how it feels to be perceived as tripping in front of others. You could feel and breathe in the support that was in the air. It was as though we were holding her until she regained her balance.

And she did regain her balance! Boy did she ever and here is what she did:

  1. She stood fully open in front of us and took a couple of deep breaths. However, we could see from her facial expression that the next lines were still not coming to mind.
  2. Lara calmly closed her eyes and took a few more breaths. But still, her next words were elusive.
  3. She had brought a prop onstage. It was a book that she was using to support a concept she was speaking about further along in her story. Inside the book, she had tucked in her notes. She asked the audience to give her a few seconds and calmly pulled them out, scanned down the page and found her place. She then easily delivered the rest of her story.

Lara stood before us searching for her forgotten next words without seeming to get flustered and trusting that if she calmed herself the words would come. She did tell me later that her heart did skip a few beats. It was a gift to watch her trust that she would find her way.

If you find yourself in the same situation as Lara, consider what it will take to have the same confidence in public speaking as she did. How will you hold the space to trust yourself? And please remember that you will have an audience that will be there at your side supporting you too. Because, you know as I do, that is how you would react if you were sitting in an audience seat.

I am passionate about my work with speakers. It would be my pleasure to talk with you to learn more about how we might work together.

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