Advice & Guides

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It’s going well. You’re delivering an important work presentation and you have audience just where you want them. Then it happens. You lose your train of thought. You just wish the ground would open up and swallow you.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It has happened to the best of us.

The good news is that you can triumph over brain freeze. Here are some top tips to help you it once and for all:

1. Practice, practice, practice. Know your three key points. Use personal stories or anecdotes, which will be easier to remember. Have notecards with key phrases nearby just in case.

2. Sleep: Without proper rest the mind-body system falters and eventually shuts down. Avoid over rehearsing and listen to your body.

3. Eat well: Cut out take-aways and carbohydrates and replace with oily fish and fresh vegetables. Cut down on coffee and tea. Replace with calming herbal teas and aim to drink two to three litres of water per day.

4. Exercise: Aim to take at least 20 minutes of aerobic exercise each day to alleviate tension. You can also use the time to mentally rehearse your presentation. 

5. Focus and be in the moment: Pre presentation, clear the mind of irrelevant thoughts, distractions and tensions. Try this exercise: Focus on an object, let everything else blur into the background and let all external sounds become inaudible. 

6. Confront your worst case scenarios: Write down the worst things that could happen e.g. you lose your place. Then write down how you could handle this scenario, e.g. pause, take a sip of water to give you time to think, or you could ask the audience what you last said or have an emergency line ready like “If someone wants to jump in right here, it’s okay with me” 

7. Meditation: Practicing meditation for at least 15 minutes per day will enhance your concentration and reduce your stress levels. Start off with just five minutes, and concentrate on your in and out breaths. 

8. Visualization: Visualise any feared obstacle to your presentation e.g. dry mouth, forgetting your words. And then visualise yourself triumphing over these feared obstacles, and delivering a fantastic presentation to an appreciative audience.

9. Breathing: Breathe deeply from your diaphragm to relax you and lower tension. Try this exercise: Lie on your back and place a hand gently on your stomach. Breathe through your nose and feel your stomach rising as your inhale, and falling as you exhale. Ensure your inhalations and exhalations last the same amount of time. 

10. Keep Going: If you go blank, don’t end your presentation and sit down. Take a moment, pause, smile and keep going. The audience won’t know you’ve left something out.   

Most importantly of all, enjoy your presentation or speech. If you’re enjoying the presentation, the audience will too.

By Christina Hession of Toastmasters International

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