And now I’d like to… (Pause...um…err…ah…). Do you ever find yourself grasping for words or losing your place in the middle of a sentence? If so, you’re not alone. This behavior is often a symptom of “under preparation,” speaking too fast or just plain nervousness. And for some people it can also be a sign of something else: Perfectionism.
Some speakers are always looking for a better word or turn of phrase to increase their fluency and show the audience that they are competent and well versed in the topic. But when you second-guess yourself and search for just the right word, you often have less control over what pops out. As such, you’re much more likely to use the word incorrectly or flub the delivery. And that will never win points with an audience.
So what can you do if your mind goes blank, you lose your place mid sentence or find yourself struggling to find the right word?
First, nothing is better to prevent this behavior than planning and practice. I recommend developing a glossary of words that would like to use and practicing them ahead of time. Rehearse the actual words and sentences out loud. Work your content line by line until you become comfortable and the words roll off your tongue like an impassioned preacher on Sunday morning.
But even with the best preparation you still might stumble or lose your place. If you ever find yourself facing such an awkward moment the best thing to do is admit it. When you admit your mistake with confidence your audience will forgive you. Your honesty may even build a stronger connection with your audience.
Here are a few phrases you can use to help get you back on track if ever you lose your place. Just make sure to practice these ahead of time to increase your chances for a smooth recovery.
· “What I meant to say is…”
· “What I hoped would come out of my mouth is…”
· “Let’s get back to what’s important.”
· “Let me return to the point I was covering.”
· “Let’s look at what we’ve covered.”
Above all else, simply take a deep breath and don’t panic. Just stop for a few seconds to regain your composure. And when you do resume, speak more slowly to give your mouth additional time to catch up with you brain. The more you trust your content and practice your delivery, the more credible you’ll be, no matter what words you choose to use.