Why we freeze-up in presentations and how not to.
Updated: Nov 25, 2020
If you can have a fluid conversation with another human being, you can think on your feet. So why is it you are worried about freezing-up in a presentation scenario when a listener asks an unexpected question?
The constraints of your writing-mind
Writing affords you a slow and careful thought process. When you write you can revise and edit our thoughts. You can hone and perfect an idea and the language with which you express it.
Presentations are high-stakes to you so it's no surprise that you have the urge to write/script them – to slowly and carefully plan what you are going to say and the order in which you are going to say it. Come game time, you recite the script. Your slow and careful writing mind does all the work.
Then a listener asks an unexpected question. Suddenly there is no script. You want to answer but, stuck using your writing-mind, you lack the agility to do so.
Guarding against your writing-mind
To avoid freezing-up, you have to go back to how you prepare. Instead of focusing on what you are going to say and the order in which you'll say it, think in terms of the ideas you might share. Write out your presentation goal and core message. If you wish, write while you brainstorm ideas. Then, stop writing and start talking to yourself.
Yes, talk to yourself. Identify an idea that you will likely share with your listeners. Give it a name; for example: Our technology helps you see the root of the problem. Now talk through that idea over and over again. This isn't rehearsal. This is securing an idea in your mind for easy, on-demand recall. Don't get caught up in the words. Let them evolve as you shape and hone the idea in your mind.
At game-time, you might have to string together a few of your ideas to start your presentation, but then you are free: free to leave the script and join the conversation; free to curve with the curve-balls; free to put your listener first and deliver what is truly relevant to them in the moment.