What To Do When Your Mind Goes Blank

What to do when you can't think of what you want to say next
What to do when you can’t think of what you want to say next
Image Credit: Shandi-lee Cox

Let’s face it – because of the importance of public speaking, giving a speech involves a great deal of stress. This stress has a way of affecting each of us differently. However, there is one thing that can happen to any of us – our minds can go blank at exactly the wrong point in time. Just like me, I’m sure that this has happened to you at one time or another. You are standing in front of an audience delivering your speech and you just got done saying something clever and now you can’t remember what you want to say next. What’s a speaker to do?


It’s All About The Pause

It is very easy to start to panic when we realize that we have no idea what we want to say next. The next time that that your mind goes blank stay calm. Don’t panic. Instead, use this as an opportunity to insert a pause into your speech. The good news is that you know what you want to say next, all you have to do is to remember it. As you pause to collect your thoughts, your audience is going to think that this is a part of the planned speech and they won’t realize what is really going on.


Keep Your Eye Contact

During those times that your brain is failing you, you are going to want to take steps to keep your nerves under control. One great way to go about doing this has to do with eye contact. When your brain goes blank, what you are going to want to do is to maintain eye contact with one person and only one person. By only looking at a single person instead of scanning your entire audience you’ll be able to ignore all of those people who are looking at you and this can produce a calming effect that can help you to remember what you want to say next.


Take The Time To Rewind

The way that we remember things is often we remember that one thing leads to another thing. In order to “reset” your brain and get it to remember what comes next, you can do a little reset on your speech. What you can do is to repeat the last sentence or phrase that you just said. To your audience it will seem like you are just trying to emphasize a point, but by doing this you may be able to get your memory to once again kick into high gear and jump to the part of your speech that you’ve forgotten.


Move Forward

When we go to give a speech, we are the only ones who know what the content of our speech is supposed to be. In fact, we are the only ones who know in what order we were planning on presenting our information. If you find yourself in a spot where you’ve forgotten the next thing that you wanted to say, feel free to jump forward in your speech to the next spot that you do remember what to say. If you can remember what you wanted to say at this point in time, then you can always work the content into your speech later on.


Drink To Remember

When we forget what we wanted to say next, what it’s going to take in order to remember what we wanted to say is going to be time. In order to buy yourself some more of this precious resource, feel free to take a pause and have a drink of water. To the outside world you’ll look cool, calm, and collected. Inside you may be racing trying to think about what you want to say next, but there is no need for anyone else to know this.


Use Your Notes

If ever there was a time for notes, then this is it. What you are going to want to do is to pause, pick up your notes, scan them to find the notes for the next thing that you wanted to say, read them, and then put the notes down. All of this will look perfectly natural to your audience and at the same time it will buy you the maximum amount of time that you need. Keep in mind that notes that are written too small or too dense won’t do you any good in a situation like this.


What All Of This Means For You

If only having to speak clearly was the only thing that we had to worry about when we are standing in front of an audience and sharing the benefits of public speaking. However, this is exactly the moment that our minds can go blank and we can forget what we wanted to say next. However, the good news is that this is not the end of the world. What we need to do is to take steps that will allow us to remember what we were trying to say. Knowing what to do is the secret to getting yourself out of this situation.

The first tool that you can put into play if you forget your lines is to simply pause. Every speech has pauses in it so your actions will look natural to your audience. Meanwhile you can use this break to see if you can once again remember what you wanted to say next. Forgetting what you wanted to say can cause a great deal of anxiety. Don’t add to this by scanning your audience, instead focus on one person and allow yourself to calm down. You can always back things up and repeat what you just said in order to jog your memory. You can also skip forward to a point in your speech where you do know what you want to say next. Feel free to use this moment to pause and take a drink of water, it looks natural and it will buy you more time. Finally, if you have notes then this is the time to look them over and find your spot.

Forgetting what we want to say next is something that happens to all of us. Don’t worry about it. However, when it next happens to you make sure that you are ready to deal with it. We’ve covered a number of steps that you can take to buy yourself some time and get your memory to start working again. Use these tips to get your speech back on track and your audience will never know what just happened.


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


Question For You: When you forget what you want to say next, do you think that it is ever a good idea to let your audience know what has just happened?


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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

I’m hoping that we can all agree that in this world in which we live in, there are three types of writers out there. There are the writers who are able to write for the spoken word, writers who are able to write for the written word, and writers who are just flat out bad writers. I’m hoping that none of you fall into that later category. However, when it comes to writing your next speech, are you going to be writing it to be read off of a page or spoken on the stage?

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