Forgetting your words when you speak is something many of my clients have raised as being a potential fear. Whether they are addressing their team and forget something, or an important presentation, when they suddenly lose the plot: where they are and their words. EEK!
It can seem like HOURS when you are thinking of the word or phrase, and is so embarrassing. You think you are losing the attention of the team or audience and wish the floor would swallow you up.
But hey: it is NEVER as bad as you think! Believe me! I was in a profession where we had to be word and musical note perfect, and of course I would make mistakes like any human being. Naturally you would occasionally have a spiteful comment, but unless you drew attention to the mistake, and carried on, the audience would be less the wiser. And the advantage of speaking is that NO ONE KNOWS WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO SAY, so if you do forget something or make an error, it is not obvious – unless you make it known to the audience.
Twenty years ago I attended a song recital with an up and coming operatic baritone. At one point he totally forgot the words of one song (and he was singing an evening programme of songs without words). He apologised and restarted the song. Everyone respected him for re-focusing and starting the song again. Twenty years later he had a lead role at the Royal Opera House. It didn’t damage his career and he dealt with the situation perfectly.
Here are my top tips to remembering words and managing mistakes.
Plan what you are going to say. I am amazed at the number of people who stand up to speak to their team, who have not planned what they are going to say. Inevitably they forget something crucial or go blank. At the very least write down three points you need to cover.
Have visual or written down cues to ensure you have some prompts if you are worried about forgetting words. You could have cue cards with a prompt or phrase to remind you, or a powerpoint presentation with pictures to remind you where you are in the presentation – rather like a map.
If you do make a mistake remember to carry on rather than draw the audience’s attention to the error.
Remember that the silence when you remember a word or phrase is never as long as you think. Take a moment to relax and gather up your thoughts and focus and start again.
If you do make a mistake, PLEASE don’t feel the world has ended. It hasn’t! But reflect on what happened and what you could do to make it easier for you next time (including preparation and writing some notes).