What To Do When Your Mind Goes Blank

You thought that you knew what you were going to say…
You thought that you knew what you were going to say…
Image Credit: Shandi-lee Cox

I’m pretty sure that we’ve all been there: we’re standing in front of an audience ready to use the importance of public speaking to give a speech that we’ve practiced and then all of sudden, our mind goes blank. There’s nothing there. The speech that we’ve spent so much time practicing has suddenly packed up and left. This has got to be the worst feeling in the world. There has got to be a way to prevent this from happening, or if not that, then dealing with it when it does happen.

What To Do When Your Mind Goes Blank

We all need to understand that when we realize that we have forgotten what we wanted to say, that’s when the panic will start to set in. All sorts of bad things will begin. Our heart rate will go up. Our breathing will become shallower. We’ll start to sweat. The very first thing that you are going to want to do is to put a stop to all of these reactions. The easiest way to go about doing that is to take some deep breaths. The wonderful thing is that your audience won’t be able to tell that you are doing this. Each deep breath will provide your system with more oxygen and will allow it to start to calm down. Your recovery starts from this point on.

Something else that happens when we realize that we’ve just forgotten what we wanted to say is that our mind tends to spin out of control. We’ll start thinking about what our audience must be thinking about right now. What we need to do is to refocus. We need to take a step back and remember what our purpose for being in front of this audience is. What we want to realize is that we have made the effort to be here in order to provide our audience with a gift – the gift of our speech.

Finally, it turns out that there was a reason that you went to the effort of preparing notes for this speech that you thought that you had committed to your memory. Your notes are what is going to save you right now. What you are going to want to do is to pause and collect your thoughts. You will then take a moment and find your place in your notes. Next, you are going to want to look up and make eye contact with your audience in order to once again reconnect with them. At this point in time you are going to want to resume your presentation from the point at which you stopped.

How To Prevent Your Mind From Going Blank

Although recovering when our mind goes blank is an important skill to develop, it would be even better if there was some way that we could prevent our mind from going blank in the first place. It turns out that there are a number of things that we can do that will help us to minimize the chances of ending up with a blank mind.

One of the most important things that we can do is to take steps when we are rehearsing our speech that will make it easier to remember what we want to say. During a speech, we can move to different parts of the stage. When we are rehearsing our speech, we want to move to those different locations and anchor parts of our speech at that location. Moving around on stage will provide your audience with a better speech and remembering what you wanted to say in different locations will help you to internalize your speech.

You will want to maintain eye contact with your audience during your speech. If you are able to scan your audience while you are delivering your speech you will be able to appear confident even if you have to take a moment to gather your thoughts. If you prefer to make eye contact with one person, then by all means go ahead and do that.

Many speakers like to work a key phrase into their speech. This is a phrase that they will repeat many times while giving the speech. If you find yourself at a spot in your speech where your mind has gone blank, you can simply repeat your key phrase and this will give you a moment to collect your thoughts.

What All Of This Means For You

All speakers have their own set of fears. Things that we don’t want to have happen to us while we are giving a speech. One of our biggest fears is all of sudden forgetting what we want to say next. Having our mind go blank while we are giving a speech can be a traumatic event because it prevents us from sharing the benefits of public speaking. As speakers, we’d all like to know what we could do if this happens to us.

The first thing that we need to do when we forget what we wanted to say is to calm our body down. We can do this by taking a series of deep breaths. Our mind will start spinning when we realize that we don’t know what we want to say. We need to refocus on our audience and remember why we are giving this speech. This is a great time to look down at your notes, find where you were and then pick up from there. In order to prevent you from losing your thoughts in the first place, you can anchor parts of your speech to the stage where you will be presenting. You can also maintain eye contact with your audience so that they’ll never know if you forget what you want to say. You can also use a key phrase that you can repeat in order to buy yourself some time.

No speaker ever wants to forget what they were going to say next. However, this is something that can happen even to the best of us. It’s not preventing it from happening that is important, but rather knowing how to recover when it does happen that is most important. If you can master these techniques, then the next time that you lose your way during a speech, your audience will never know.

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

Question For You: If you forget what you want to say next, do you think that you should tell your audience?

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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!

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