Tag Archives: presentation technique

Train of Thought

chin scratchYou’re in the midst of an especially powerful presentation when you lose train of thought and give that deer-in-headlights stare.

That’s what happens when Blank-Mind strikes.

You’re on a roll, really jazzing the audience.

And then . . . your mind wanders for a brief moment.  It was just a moment, but it was enough to sabotage you.

Your thoughts grind to a halt.

You can’t remember what to say.

Words fail you.

You Lose Train of Thought

Blank-Mind attacks all of us at one point or another during our business presentation career.

In fact, it happens so often that it might do us good to think ahead to how we react to this common presentation malady.

Presenters have developed trade tricks to help us past the rough spots.

Here is one stopgap solution for when you lose train of thought.

When Blank-Mind strikes, your first reaction should be a calm academic assessment of the situation – you know what’s happened, and you already know what your first action will be.

You have prepared for this.

Pause.

Let silence grip the room.

The Especially Powerful Chin-scratch

Look slightly upward and raise your right hand to your chin, holding your hand in a semi-fist with chin perched and resting on your index finger and thumb – perhaps with your index finger curled comfortably around your chin.

You know the stance.

Put your left hand on your hip.  Furrow your brow as if deep in thought, which you are.

Now, while looking steadily at the floor or slightly upward at the ceiling, walk slowly in a diagonal approximately four, maybe five steps and stop, feet shoulder-width apart.

Now, assume your basic ready position and look up at your audience.

Your Bought Time

You have just purchased a good 10 seconds to regain your confidence and composure, to regain your thought pattern, and to cobble together your next few sentences.

If this brief respite was not enough to reset yourself, then shift to the default statement.

It's not the end of the world if you lose train of thought.
If You’re Thinking, then Look Thoughtful

What do I mean “default statement?”

This is a rescue phrase that you craft  beforehand to get you back into your speaking groove.

It consists of something like this:  “Let me recapitulate our three points – liberté, égalité, fraternité.

Other phrases might be: “Now is probably a good time to look again at our main themes . . .”  or “We can see again that the issue boils down to the three crucial points that I began with . . .”

And then, you simply begin ticking off your three or four main points of your presentation.

In doing so, you trigger thought processes that put you back onto the correct path.

Think of this method as levering a derailed train back onto the track.

If you have prepared as you should, then it should be no more than a small bump in the road for you to lose train of thought.  A minor nuisance with minimal damage.

If you panic, however, it can balloon into something monstrous.

Remember the rescue techniques to regain your train of thought:  Chin-scratch and Default Statement.

You can control the damage by utilizing the Chin-scratch, which buys you time to reassert yourself.  Failing that, the Default Statement bails you out by taking you back over familiar material you’ve just covered.

If none of the above works, however, you can still stop yourself from going into total meltdown by using the two rescue words I preach to all my students . . . “In conclusion . . .”

For more rescue techniques in the toughest parts of your presentation, including when you lose train of thought, consult the especially powerful The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Time for a Public Speaking Pause

Public Speaking Pause Delivers Impact
The well-timed and well-placed pause can make your business presentation corruscate

Coca-Cola’s 1929 slogan was “The Pause that Refreshes.”

Pauses can, indeed, be refreshing, and a judicious pause can refresh your business presentation.

I’m taking a cue from Coke.  I’m pausing here in this space, right now.

It should last for a few days.  Not to refresh, but to move my abode within the confines of the great city of Philadelphia.

Moves are great.  They offer a time for purging the unwanted from one’s life, discarding what we thought was essential so long ago, only to realize now that . . . we can let it go.

Public Speaking Pause Power

In fact, the prudent pause for reflection, for the audience to digest your message, for dramatic effect to emphasize what comes next . . . all add depth and richness to your show and communicate to audience members that they have gathered to hear something special.

So, make friends with silence so that you feel comfortable in its presence.

The correct pauses imbue your talk with incredible power.  With proper timing and coupled with other techniques, the pause can evoke strong emotions in your audience.

A pause can project and communicate as much or more than mere words.

The public speaking pause is part of your nonverbal repertoire and a superbly useful tool.

The comfortable pause communicates your competence and confidence.  It telegraphs deep and serious thought. Pause Power is underutilized today, but has served as arrow-in-quiver of the finest presenters over centuries.  Presentation Master Grenville Kleiser put it this way in 1912:  “Paradoxical tho it may seem, there is an eloquence and a power in silence which every speaker should seek to cultivate.”

When you use the pause judiciously, you emphasize the point that comes immediately after the pause.  You give the audience time to digest what you just said.  And you generate anticipation for what you are about to say.

So save the pause for the moments just prior to each of your main points.

How do you pause?  When do you pause?

Silence is Your Friend

A truly effective pause can be coupled with a motionless stance, particularly if you have been pacing or moving about or gesturing vigorously.  Couple the pause with a sudden stop, going motionless.  Look at your audience intently.

Seize their complete attention.

Pause.

You can see that you should not waste your pause on a minor point of your talk.  You should time your pauses to emphasize the single MIP and its handful of supporting points.

Voice coach Patsy Rodenburg says:  “A pause is effective and very powerful if it is active and in the moment with your intentions and head and heart. . . . a pause filled with breath and attention to what you are saying to your audience will give you and your audience a bridge of transitional energy from one idea to another.”

Finally, the pause can rescue you when you begin to spiral out of control or lose your train of thought.  Remember that silence is your friend.

Need a life-preserver?  Need time to regain your composure?  Try this . . .

Pause.  Look slightly down.  Scratch your chin thoughtfully.  Furrow your brow.  Take four steps to the right or left, angling a bit toward the audience.

Voila!  You just bought 7-8 precious seconds to collect your thoughts.

Remember the especially powerful effects you can achieve in your business presentation with the public speaking pause.  It’s a sure way to build your professional presence on the podium.

For more on superb business techniques like the public speaking pause, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

 

To the Rescue! . . . a Classic Life Preserver

Concluding your business presentation
“In conclusion” are the magic words to rescue any business presentation that threatens to spiral out of control and end in ignominy

Every person needs a life-preserver at some point during a speaking career.

At times, even the finest presenters get themselves in trouble, and having this rescue device near to hand can salvage a speech that is careening off-course, that is flirting with disaster.

It’s a quite simple device that can serve us well near the end of our talk.

When your talk is winding down and you feel yourself suddenly spent . . . When you begin to spiral out of control and cannot remember your train of thought . . . When your pulse quickens and your mind goes blank . . .

Grasp for two words.

Your life-preserver.

“In conclusion . . .”

That’s it.  Just two words.

I’ve tossed this rescue device out many times to students in trouble during a crumbling presentation.

These two words have rescued thousands of presenters before you, and they’ll rescue you as well.  These two words work a magic on your psyche that is almost inexplicable in terms that a logical, reasonable person would believe.

As soon as you speak them, the path to the end of your talk becomes clear.  Speak them, and suddenly you know what to say and do.

You Know the Magic Words

You confidently tack on another phrase . . .

“In conclusion, we can see that . . .”

“In conclusion, our recommendation makes sense for reasons just given . . .”

“In conclusion, this means that . . .”

See how it works?  How incredibly easy it is to get out of the sticky wicket of a talk spiraling out of control?

“In conclusion” leads you out of the wilderness and back onto your prepared path.  It leads you to restate your thesis in concise manner and then . . .

. . . stop!

You’re done.