"I really don't know what to say" the speaker said. He'd given many, many briefings to military audiences over his long career but now he had to be front and center for a prospective customer. He knew his old military style wasn't appropriate and felt stuck--and nervous.
To start helping him, I told him to think of the slides only as points on a map. Each slide represented a topic he needed to speak about. One or two key words would further define the topic. Then he needed to speak from his inner knowledge, with passion and authenticity. The audience would respond to him personally, not to the flat, fact-filled slides.
He began making notes at 8 AM. He stood up for his first practice an hour later. Not bad for a first start. I gave him a few ideas, he re-worked his notes and practiced again. Over the course of 6 hours, he repeated this sequence of practice-revise-practice several times. By the afternoon, he nailed it.
He then did a rehearsal for the rest of the team. First one was a little tentative, the second one was confident and compelling. We gave him a round of applause and we could see his sense of accomplishment in his eyes and posture.
When you are stuck--can't think what to say, nervous and self-conscious, generally uncomfortable--just begin someplace. You won't find relief from delay, more and more thinking, or falling back on writing a detailed script. You will find relief from standing up, speaking out loud and hearing yourself imporve through incremental changes over time. A huge amount of improvement will come from a day's worth of repeated effort. You can go from zero--the fright of a blank page--to speaking with confidence in one day.
How have you overcome "speaker's block?" Share your favorite tip in our comment box.