What if I lose my way during my speech?

Picture2“I’m worried that I’ll lose my place when I’m doing my speech. What can I do?”


I’m afraid it’s down to my old favourite again: practise. The more you practise and the more comfortable you are with your speech, the less likely you are to get lost.

You should make sure that your notes are clear and easy to follow, written neatly and big enough for you to be able to read easily if they’re resting on the table or you’re holding them in your hands – i.e. so you don’t have to squint or hold them up to your face to read them.

You also want to be able to easily pick up where you are at any time, so you also need to ensure there’s plenty of white space on the page you’re reading from – keep the amount of text on the page to a bare minimum, with just the key words or lines to remind you what to say next. If you look down to see a mass of words, you’re so much more likely to lose your place.

This, though, is where prompt cards come in handy – they are 5”x3” cards which you can hold in your hands and on which you just jot a few words to remind you what to say next. The huge benefit of prompt cards over speech notes written word-for-word is that, as you only have one thought per card, it’s so much easier to look down and remember where you are!

If, though, the worst case happens and you lose your place when you’re in the middle of your speech:

First of all, don’t panic. Forget about everything around you and just focus on remembering where you got to.
Don’t be afraid to pause while you recover your flow. Any silence will seem longer to you than it does to the audience.
You could ask for help from your audience. Asking “Now, where was I?” will usually get good natured replies, and if you’re smooth enough you can make it appear as though it were a part of your planned speech after all.
Try turning it into a joke, and have some back-up lines ready, just in case. A favourite of mine is: “Now we all have something in common: none of us knows what I’m going to say next!” While they laugh at this, you can use the break in pressure to find your place and then carry on.

Hopefully this helps – good luck!

**If you have any comments, or questions that you’d like Pete to answer, feel free to comment below or on my Facebook page**




Peter D Oxley
Pete Oxley is a freelance writer and business manager who lives in the English Home Counties. He enjoys reading and writing in a wide range of areas but his main passions are sci-fi, fantasy, historical fiction and Steampunk. Influences include HG Wells, Charles Dickens, Neil Gaiman, KW Jeter, Scott Lynch, Clive Barker and Joss Whedon. Author of the non-fiction book "The Wedding Speech Manual" and the historical fantasy series "The Infernal Aether". He lives with his wife, two young sons and a slowly growing guitar collection. Probably a masochist: aside from writing and willingly speaking in front of large crowds of strangers, Pete spends his spare time playing music badly and supporting football teams that play badly.

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