What's a public speaker's worst nightmare? It's what happened to Michael Bay. Going blank and not knowing what to do can cause any speaker to freeze with fear. I saw this happen during the December holidays at a networking party. The event took place in a large store with a winding staircase in the middle of the room. Each speaker climbed a few stairs and then talked to 50 women who were standing around. The third speaker ascended the stairs and began to talk about hair care. He started out fine. But a few minutes into it he said, "I'm sorry " and left the building. We didn't know what hit us.The audience didn't see that coming. But something happened inside to trigger a panic attack. Michael Bey was interrupted by the emcee, lost his place on the teleprompter and couldn't recover. He walked off. It was a painful moment for him, the emcee, the sponsor, and the viewers. What could he have done? What would you do?
The best preparation aside from rehearsing is to know your worst case scenario and plan a recovery strategy.
Have a Backup Script-If you ever speak from a teleprompter, have a back-up script. Although not ideal, Michael could have taken the script and continued the presentation.
Play it Again Sam-If the technology goes down or the teleprompter malfunctions, call it out and ask them to restart. I once saw a Miss Universe pageant. The contestant began her presentation in English and then got flustered. Instead of dying on the platform, she announced that she was going to continue in French. The audience encouraged her with applause.
Stop and Breathe-Public speaking success is not guaranteed. If you experience brain freeze, take a moment to focus on your breath. This will help you come back and regain your composure. People walk off in a panic because they don't know what to do. Too many public speakers fear silence. So they exit the stage. You don't have to act immediately. Pause and breathe to come back into your body.
Fire an Anchor-This takes preparation. Create a physical anchor, or word that will trigger you back into confidence. Fire it and expect to experience a state of excellence where you have that "can do" attitude. You can give fear the finger.
Let Go and Go with the Flow-When disaster strikes, take a lesson from martial arts. Don't fight against the energy. Use it. Disarm your opponent. In this case, the opponent is fear.
The best public speakers are prepared and then let go. Nobody is better at this than Bill Clinton. During one of his presidential speeches he realized that somebody put the wrong speech in the teleprompter. He was able to wing it until Hillary could notify the person responsible. .If you're wedded to every word you will have a difficult time as a public speaker.
When Michael's speech was out of sync with the teleprompter, the emcee asked him a question about the slides.That was the opportunity to let go of the script and to have a conversation.The presentation could have morphed into an interview and Mr. Bay could have remained on stage.
The Lesson? In the arena of public speaking, it's not always what you say, it's how you recover. If at all possible, avoid using a teleprompter. Be prepared and know this too,will pass.
What was your worst public speaking moment? What did you do?