How To Clear Up A Bad Case Of “The Blanks”

by drjim on October 15, 2013

Not remembering what you want to say next is a big problem

Not remembering what you want to say next is a big problem
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That memory of ours can be a fickle thing. One moment we know exactly what we’re going to say next because we’ve practiced it 100 times, and then the next moment we’re drawing a complete blank – we can’t remember what we wanted to say for the life of us. As a public speaker, this can be one of the most terrifying things that can happen to any of us and despite our knowing about importance of public speaking, drawing a blank can strike at any time. What we need is ways to prevent this from happening to us ever again.

Body, Soul, and Memory

There are a lot of different reasons why our memory can just get up and walk out the door during a speech. One of the most common reasons is that we forgot to physically prepare for the speech. Overlook this important step and it really doesn’t matter how many times you prepare for a speech, you are still going to be running the chance that you’ll blank out while giving it.

The right way to think about the physical / speech link is to take a peek at what the wrong way to prepare for a speech is. Things that you don’t want to do are stay up late the night before trying to memorize your speech, become anxious, place yourself under time pressure, or not get enough sleep. Instead, you need to take care to do all of the right things.

The right things include eating a balanced meal. Your mom is probably not there, but you know the routine – a couple of hours before you are going to speak, eat a good meal that will take care of your hunger but not stuff you. Skip the energy drink, but make sure that you’ve had a lot of water. Finally, sleep really does matter. Make sure that you’ve gotten some serious sleeping time before you have to give your next speech.

The Where Of Memory

The smart people who study things like memory have made some amazing breakthroughs in the past few years. What they’ve discovered is that the more similar the area where you practice your speech is to the location that you’ll be giving it in, the easier it will be for you to remember what you want to say next.

The reason for this is that being in a somewhat familiar surroundings helps your brain to recognize where it is. This can lead to an increase in your self-confidence. This can be further boosted by taking the time to understand what the most effective way for learning your speech is.

All too often we sit down and try to “memorize” what we’re going to say in one long session. It turns out that this is the wrong way to go about doing things. Instead, the memory scientists have found that breaking up speech memorization sessions into blocks of roughly 20 minutes is what will result in creating the most “sticky” memories.

What All Of This Means For You

The last thing that any of us wants is to be standing in front of an audience and have our minds go blank. The good news is that there are steps that we can take to minimize the chances of this ever happening to us. If we can fix this problem, then we’ll be in a better position to share the benefits of public speaking with our next audience.

The most important thing that we can do is to take care of ourselves physically. Eating and drinking the right things (and not the wrong things!) coupled with making sure that we get enough sleep will help prepare our brains to remember what we want to say next. Practicing our speech in an environment that looks like where we’ll be giving it can also help. Finally, if we take the time to break up our study time, then we have a much better chance of being able to remember what we wanted to say.

Our minds are powerful tools. They have the ability to remember a long and complex speech and to recall any part of it whenever we need it. However, like any tool, we need to take care of our minds and keep it in good shape. The things that we do before we take the stage to give our next speech are the things that will allow us to never have to worry about drawing a blank again!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: If you do end up staying up late the night before a speech, what should you do to minimize the chances of forgetting your speech?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When we are first becoming speakers we spend our time trying to master the short speech. It might be a quick presentation during a meeting, an address to a group of workers, or even an executive briefing. This is how we first harness the benefits of public speaking. No matter what the setting is, the speeches themselves always seem to be pretty short. When we take the step towards giving more professional presentations such as keynotes and seminars, all of a sudden we need to learn how to give longer speeches…

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Darrel November 13, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Dr Jim,

A fellow Toastmaster gave me this tip: if you lose your train of thought, repeat your last sentence to help bring yourself back on track. Many times, the audience will not notice.

Thanks!

Reply

drjim November 15, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Darrel: That’s a great tip! Ultimately, you know what you want to say next. You just need the time to remember what it is! Anything that can buy you just a little bit more time should do the trick…!

Reply

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