Freezing on the platform while experiencing a performance anxiety attack, is far more common than most speakers care to ever admit. No one can predict how or when they will experience one of those episodes. It happens not to some but to us all. Good coaches and trainers often include how to manage those attacks in their training. How to avoid or prepare for these types of events is an essential part of your development as a speaker. But what you do before during and after one of those experiences can determine your success or failure when next you are on the platform.
There is a widely held belief that stage fright or performance anxiety attacks are closely linked to age, experience or even incompetence when in reality, it all boils down to the three P’s of public speaking – purpose, planning, and preparation. When speakers are well prepared mentally, physically, and are present in the moment with a purpose, chances of freezing on stage are less likely. Their preparation should also include common what-ifs scenarios, like unexpected laughter. They should not be afraid to rough up the final draft as they begin their drilling exercises – picking a word or phrase from the prepared text and proceeding with their delivery from that point on.
Good writing can also significantly increase a speakers ability to deliver their message successfully. When a speech develops as a series of ideas with a transition for each vignette, the speaker is not only helping their audience follow the story; they are also helping themselves to focus on the flow of ideas and not just the words. Next, the must move the message from head to heart. They must be prepared to manage any glitches by even changing body language or persona if necessary. In those unexpected moments, prepared speakers can safely jump to their anchor – the speech title or foundational statement momentarily, while they recover from the keywords or thought they may have lost. They take a deep breath, they refocus to regain their swagger without anyone realizing they’ve made a faux pas.
Freezing on stage can be a wakeup call for all speakers. Over time, we sometimes get careless or overconfident. Freezing on the platform can be a blessing in disguise, however, speakers should take a moment to honestly determine why they had the freeze. Freezing can serve as a reminder that we must be well prepared to step onto the platform. If can serve to remind us about our purpose as speakers. It can also serve as a reminder that you are the messenger and not the message. Bring the heat, bring it early and surely you will heat things up the next time you find yourself experiencing a freeze on the platform.