Public speaking isn’t easy. Memorizing your script to serve as your guide throughout your presentation is, unfortunately, not an assurance that you’ll do well in front of your audience. If it isn’t your day, you might just freeze in front of them and end up saying nothing at all. Ask the best speakers and they probably experienced that once in their lifetime.
The good news is, there are actually ways you can prevent yourself from freezing when presenting in public. The key is to know the reasons for getting stumped in the first place. When you know why you freeze when giving a public speech, you’ll understand the strategies you need to implement to prevent that from happening.
So, why do I freeze up when public speaking, you ask? Let’s look at the answer in this article.
Why We Get Stumped During A Speech
If a presentation doesn’t go your way and you end up not saying anything at all, here’s my advice: Don’t be too hard on yourself. Freezing, after all, is the body’s natural response to stress. When you’re in a situation that gives you a lot of that, like public speaking, your body naturally secretes adrenaline and noradrenaline, the fight and flight hormones.
Get too many of those hormones and aside from freezing, you might even get the additional sweaty palms, temporary loss of voice, and the rapid heartbeat.
In other words, that brain freeze is really not your fault. It’s your body trying to protect you from all that stress you’re feeling.
But if that “brain freeze” is the body’s natural response to the overwhelming stress, then doesn’t that mean that you can no longer do something about it?
Well, not really.
The REAL Reason We Get Stumped
While it’s true the body’s natural response is something beyond anyone’s control, you have to also note that the body didn’t freeze just because. It merely RESPONDED. That means there was a trigger and that trigger led the body to react that way. If you remove that trigger, you can, in essence, prevent the body from responding with a brain freeze. To put it simply, if you remove the trigger, you can, ultimately, breeze through your speech as well.
Sounds logical enough, right?
So, our question now should be this: What exactly is that trigger that leads the body to react with a brain freeze when public speaking?
I actually already gave away the answer a while back, and it’s something everyone experiences: Stress.
What Causes Fear of Public Speaking: Pressure and Fear of the Unknown
Unlike the body’s natural response, the presence (or absence) of stress is something you can control. Just think about it. We usually feel stress when we feel a lot of pressure or when we fear the unknown.
However, the pressure we feel, especially when public speaking, is more often self-induced (of course there’s what we call real pressure when the people around us expect too much from us but in cases when we have to talk to a crowd, that doesn’t typically apply). On our own, we feel like we need to do well because if we don’t, we’ll be the laughingstock.
As for our fear of the unknown, well, the unknown can’t always stay unknown, right?
In other words, deal with that self-induced pressure and that fear of the unknown and you can remove the stress that causes the body to respond naturally with that brain freeze. Remove that pressure and your fear, and you can ultimately make your speeches in front of crowds like a pro.
How to Not Freeze During Presentations
Removing the pressure on you and your fear of the unknown when public speaking are things you can’t do overnight. But if you consistently follow these tips below, you’d be surprised at how you can easily turn things around for you as a public speaker:
1. Have A Different Mindset.
Public speakers who focus too much on themselves are more likely to feel that undue pressure to give the perfect speech. So, instead of thinking about how you need to be the best speaker out there, why not think about your audience and how you can give them value? If you shift the focus from yourself to the people who matter the most in this case, you’ll be able to view your presentation, not as a means to prove yourself, but as a means to help others.
And helping others is not at all stressful, right?
2. Practice Your Presentation Before D-day
This applies especially to people who are first-time speakers. Remember when I said that the stress we feel when speaking in front of people is sometimes due to our fear of the unknown? Well, this is one of the ways you can make that unknowable thing (speaking in front of an audience) knowable so you no longer feel that fear.
Before you step on that big stage, do the same presentation in front of other people. Your audience for this practice session doesn’t have to be as big as your audience on the actual day. The key here is to gain a better understanding of how you’ll feel when you speak to that crowd on D-day. So, when you do face them on the actual day, the feeling is one you’re already familiar with.
For more information surrounding this topic, please check out the article "9 Killer Public Speaking Exercises You Can Do At Home"
3. Memorize Your Script
Sure, I did say that memorizing your script is not an assurance you’ll do well in your presentation (unfortunately, there are other factors that may cause you to feel stressed and feel that brain freeze). That doesn’t mean, however, that you’ll no longer memorize your script.
When you know what you want to say like the back of your hand even before you step on that stage, after all, you’re also making the unfamiliar (what you’ll say during the presentation), familiar. That means you’re also removing the possibility of you feeling that fear of the unknown.
So, before the day of the actual presentation, make sure you read your script multiple times until you fully understand the message you want to convey to your audience. That way, on the actual day, you’ll no longer struggle for the right words. Bear in mind, though, that you don’t actually have to parrot your script to the letter. After all, you still don’t want to sound like a robot when you’re making your presentation.
4. Study Answers To Potential Questions
Don’t just study your script before the actual public speaking event. You have to bear in mind that the members of your audience are typically not just passive listeners. They’re attending your speaking engagement to learn from you. That means if they have questions, they most certainly won’t hesitate to ask them.
To prevent that fear of the unknown from creeping in on the actual day of the presentation, then, be proactive and create a list of potential questions people might formulate after hearing your speech. Study the answers to those potential questions. Remember, even the best speakers do their research before they face an audience. That’s one of the reasons they became the best of the best in the first place.
5. Seek Help
Don’t be afraid to seek help when you need it. There are professionals out there who know the ins and outs of public speaking. They can help you deal with that fear of the unknown and that self-induced pressure that leads to stress.
The good thing is, many of these professionals have been there and done that (and still do), which means when you talk to them about what you’re experiencing during speaking engagements, they’ll know how exactly you can address that and overcome it, just as they did.
Freezing when public speaking is not as rare an occurrence as you think. There are no specific statistics for the number of people who experience this, but the National Social Anxiety Center reports that glossophobia, or public speaking anxiety, does affect a whopping 73% of the population. In other words, you’re not alone.
The good news is, freezing when public speaking is not something you can’t prevent. Although you can’t technically stop your body’s natural response to stress, you can, however, remove that stress that triggers the natural response in the first place.
You learned some tips on how to do that from this article. Change your mindset, practice your presentation before going onstage, and memorize your script. Study your answers to potential questions, too. Finally, you can always go and seek professional help.
For more resources to develop your public speaking skills while you are in the comforts of your own home, please check the articles Online Resources for Public Speaking and Where Can I Learn Public Speaking. If you would like to leverage the best presentation software for your next big speaking engagement please read the article 'Best Presentation Technology tools'.