Many people struggle with public speaking. For years I’ve helped other people improve their speaking, and there is one issue that always pops up – the inability to think while speaking to a group. What I mean by that is, you get so focused on what you’re saying, or what your script is, that when you mess up, you have nowhere to go. This also has a tendency to create the um’s, and uh’s that so many speakers insert into their talks.
When I started public speaking 16 years ago, I had to deal with this issue as well. It frustrated the daylights out of me mainly because I didn’t want to look stupid standing in front of a group, frozen, not knowing what I was supposed to say next. So I did what I always do, I figured out a way to not do that.
I started asking myself what I could do to train my brain to think in that situation. So I came up with a little brain exercise I now teach to every speaker, or future speaker, I work with. I start by looking around the room to find an object to speak about. Once I pick an object, I start talking nonstop. I quickly find that I am unable to consistently speak about that one object. So I don’t. I change the object quickly in my mind and start talking about it, and then another object, and then another.
As I continued this exercise, I was able to train my brain to think of where I was going, instead of where I am. This also gave me the ability to continue “filling space” with words while I was trying to figure out where I was in my script. Once I remembered it, I would find a place to get back on track. Sounds crazy, but it worked. The more I practiced, the more I was able to think on the fly while speaking. (It’s also helped me debate better. :-o)
As the years have gone on, I’ve used this simple technique with a lot of speakers, and it has helped them become better, more comfortable speakers. They always think it’s goofy at first, but you can tell when they’ve been practicing. For that matter, you can also tell when they haven’t.