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Trish Springsteen Speaking

Public Speaking FAQ: What Do I Do When My Mind Goes Blank?

This is one of the first questions many of my clients ask me. It’s a thought that hovers in the back of the mind for all of us when we are speaking. What if I forget what I am going to say?bubblehead-fear-of-public-speaking

First thing – don’t panic!  Stop, breathe, pause, smile then continue with your presentation.

Many new speakers will try to learn their speeches word for word. The unfortunate outcome is that if they forget the next word – the rest of the speech goes missing as well. So if this resonates with you – practice your speech, prepare your speech then reduce it to dot points or concepts and speak to these. Have confidence in yourself – you know your content, your message – you are a subject matter expert. Believe in yourself, breathe and share your message.

PowerPoint can help you with this, if appropriate. Speak to the dot points and/or images on your slides. It can be a very handy reminder of where you are going and of the main points you want to share.

Remember, every speaker at some stage in their speaking journey has had a moment where their mind has gone blank.  You are not alone; it is not the end of the world.

So next time, if you do have that moment of forgetfulness:

Take a deep breath, pause, perhaps glance at your dot points or the PowerPoint, and see the next point. Think about what you want to say, smile at your audience while you are thinking then continue.

Don’t apologise or draw attention to the fact that you have had a momentary lapse.  The audience will never know. Nor will they know what you were going to say so if you pick up your presentation and have left out a bit they will not know.  As you get back into the flow you may remember what you were going to say or realise that you want to add something – just slot it into your next point and continue.

smiley-facesA smile is your ‘get out of jail’ card. When you smile at your audience they will smile back, they will never know that your mind is frantically ticking over getting back onto track and finding the next word to say. Believe me it works.

How do I know? Well as I said it happens to all of us at some time and yes it happened to me. I was in full flow – wowing them with my speech and suddenly I just stopped.  For the life of me I could not remember what I was going to say next. So I paused, breathed, smiled, thought frantically then continued. The only ones that guessed were a couple of very good friends that know me very well and know my speeches.  The audience, well they were coming up and congratulating me on the heartfelt poignant pause that made them really connect with me and take on board my message!

Your mind going blank in the middle of a speech is not the end of the world. Stay in control, don’t panic, breathe, pause, smile, think then proceed as if nothing has happened.  To your audience nothing has. You are not alone.

Don’t forget to download your copy of 10 Free Tips For Improving Your Presentation


Trish Springsteen

Multi International Award Winning Speaking Mentor Coach Author

Trish typically works with introverts, authors and advocates helping them to have the confidence to step up and share their message and stories with those who need to hear them.

Contact Trish for a complimentary discovery session on  info@trischel.com.au







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2 Responses

  1. Springsteen, I can relate to drawing a blank when public speaking (like you said most people can) and I found that when I draw a blank I have a tendency to apologize. To me, it’s a natural reaction but only happens occasionally. Hitting this type of blank can throw a speaker off their game. What advice do you have on regaining your confidence after making a mistake that people notice?

    1. Hi,
      Many thanks for your comment. Yes it is a natural reaction for us to apologise when we make a mistake. To avoid apologising practice pausing and taking a breath. Smile then continue. Often it is your perception that people notice a mistake. Most times they don’t – remember your audience doesn’t know what you are going to say so if you do make a mistake they aren’t going to notice if you practice the pause, breathe, smile technique, even if you miss out part of your speech. If you do put a oh sorry in time again smile, pause – if you feel comfortable make a small joke or just continue. If you were to go and speak to people in your audience about your presentation I can almost guarantee it would be unlikely that they are going to point out your mistake – they are going to say thanks for the wonderful information or message your are sharing. When you believe in yourself, your expertise and that is about them not you – your mistakes aren’t mistakes they are just a hiccup in the smoothness of your presentation. Hope this helps. regards Trish

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