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Thursday, 15 December 2016 03:27

How does one stay present while doing presentations and public speaking when nerves become overwhelming and the mind tends to blank?

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Each Time We Face Our FearI think the answer to your question lays within your question. How does one stay present … one stays present by actually staying present.

You might have to think about that one for a bit. From one perspective, the present i.e. now, is in relation to living in the past, which we can’t do and living in the future, which we can’t do either.

When public speaking, all the problems that we may have with ‘nerves becoming overwhelming’ is from our past. We are reliving our fears and emotions from previous speaking events. Its like we are being haunted by our personal failure ghosts. Or at least how our minds interpreted our feelings at the time. Sometimes these fearful memories are filed away from when we were children. We may not even remember what the situation was, we only remember how we felt about it at the time.

Those thoughts and memories no longer serve a purpose. They aren’t doing anything to protect us, that’s for sure. They are now causing us problems. We get up to speak and we are taken back to that time in our past.

So how do we resolve this problem? If they were ghosts, we would likely call Ghost Busters. Since these ghosts are actually ghost-memories, we have to find a similar technique to bust those memories.

Staying present is an action. It means that you are focusing on the here and now. If you are focussing on the here and now, you are not focusing on the then and now. It serves no purpose focusing on the past. You certainly can’t change it. It doesn’t matter how many times you relive a situation, you won’t be able to change the results. However, you can change future results in similar situations. This is where living in the present i.e. staying present comes into play. You have to actively make it happen and ban any self-sabotaging thoughts.

When I first embraced my fear of public speaking and did something about i.e. joining Toastmasters, I was terrified of speaking to a group of people. I don’t think that I was afraid due to past failures, if memory serves me right, I was afraid of being afraid. It took me a while to rid myself of those thoughts.

I speak a lot now and I remain comfortable. Sometimes my anxiety will build, my heart will beat a little faster but its in a good way. The anticipation of speaking, while I’m waiting to be introduced can help energize me and I don’t let it control me.

One of the best ways to bust your nerves from taking over is to become self-confident. You become self-confident by speaking over and over again. Speak out and speak often! The more opportunities that you speak, the more comfortable you will become. Learning speaking techniques that help you stay in the moment can be helpful.

If you are using a PowerPoint presentation to assist your presentation, the slides can be a great way to keep you focussed and in the moment. Each slide represents an idea. While you want to put a minimal amount of content on an individual slide, it can work well for you.

I wouldn’t worry about your mind going blank. It happens to everyone. I’m pretty sure nobody has died from doing so.  A frequent cause is when a speaker adds something to their speech while delivering it that wasn’t there when they practiced it. I throws off your speaking rhythm.

I’ve blanked out on a few occasions. I have a couple techniques that have served me well and prevent a panic attack. One, is to have a glass of water near you. If you forget your next line or forget what you were talking about, simply reach over and take a slow drink of water. Your audience will likely think that you have a dry throat. They wouldn’t likely think you have forgotten your line. So while you are sipping, put your mind in fast forward and think about your next line or how you can recover and move forward. Your audience won’t know the difference.

A second technique I have used successfully is to be honest with the audience and tell them you forgot one comes next. I tend to have a little fun with the audience that seems to work. “Hmmm, I can’t remember where I was going with that idea and I wasn’t listening to what I was saying. Was anybody else listening? What was I talking about?” When somebody responds, I will say something like “Exactly! That’s the point I wanted to make!” Then I laugh with the audience.

If I was being paid a huge amount of money as a keynote speaker it might not work so well as they would likely have higher expectations but it serves my purposes.

I tell a lot of personal stories in my presentations. Each story has a beginning, body and conclusion and is utilized to illustrate a point that I want to make. If I’m focussing on my story, making my point, I’m staying in the present and not worrying about anything else. At the same time, part of my mind is thinking about what the next portion of my speech is. The presentation is one big story, with individual stories and points following a path to the end. This keeps me in the present.

Try it and see how it works for you. Thanks for your question and good luck with your future presentations.

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Rae Stonehouse

Author Bio:

Rae A. Stonehouse is a Canadian born author & speaker. His professional career as a Registered Nurse working predominantly in psychiatry/mental health, has spanned four decades.

Rae has embraced the principal of CANEI (Constant and Never-ending Improvement) as promoted by thought leaders such as Tony Robbins and brings that philosophy to each of his publications and presentations.

Rae has dedicated the latter segment of his journey through life to overcoming his personal inhibitions. As a 20+ year member of Toastmasters International he has systematically built his self-confidence and communicating ability. He is passionate about sharing his lessons with his readers and listeners. His publications thus far are of the self-help, self-improvement genre and systematically offer valuable sage advice on a specific topic. He is a long-time member of Kelowna Flying Solo Toastmasters and is the driving force behind its long-term success. 

His writing style can be described as being conversational. As an author Rae strives to have a one-to-one conversation with each of his readers, very much like having your own personal self-development coach. Rae is known for having a wry sense of humour that features in his publications.

Author of Self-Help Downloadable E-Books:

Power Networking for Shy PeoplePower Networking for Shy People: Tips & Techniques for Moving from Shy to Sly!

PROtect Yourself!PROtect Yourself! Empowering Tips & Techniques for Personal Safety: A Practical Violence Prevention Manual for Healthcare Workers.

E=Emcee SquaredE=Emcee SquaredTips & Techniques to Becoming a Dynamic Master of Ceremonies.

Power of PromotionPower of Promotion: On-line Marketing for Toastmasters Club Growth


Phone Rae 250-451-6564 or

Rae’s social … are you?


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Copyright 2015 & 2016 Rae Stonehouse. The above document may be freely copied and distributed as long as the author’s name and contact info remain attached.

To learn more about Rae A. Stonehouse, visit the Wonderful World of Rae Stonehouse at http://raestonehouse.com

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