Your Mind goes Blank during a presentation – What to do?

Conducting lectures is an excellent achievement for any professional, but certain basic precautions must be taken to avoid turning this opportunity of accomplishment into a nightmare.

 One of the most common mistakes is having the famous blank, where the words suddenly run away, and you cannot complete the presentation.

  When you make it clear to the audience that you got lost, the chances of you completely destabilizing yourself are even more significant.

Why does my mind go blank during a presentation?

When your mind goes blank during a presentation, you usually feel nervous, anxious, or pressured.

Jobs Telepathy Game x
Jobs Telepathy Game

This situation of great stress ends up releasing a hormone called Cortisol (the stress hormone) that affects our memory, making us forget what we want to say.

There is a recurrent dynamic in lectures: the feeling of threat: the speaker goes on stage and is afraid of being judged or misinterpreted. This generates nervousness and consequently the dreaded blank”, explains Roger Checker, managing partner of SOAP, a company specializing in presentations.

Roger checker

 Biologically, this threat triggers several chemical reactions – the blood goes to limbos, the body sweats, and adrenaline takes effect – that promote an emotional “kidnap” and paralyze the speaker.

What to do when your mind goes blank during a Public Presentation?

In general, understanding the macro of your presentation and the order of the arguments, especially its objective, will help you create “shortcuts” if you have any problems with forgetting. The important thing is to reach the goal. Therefore, when making your material, we can minimize the chances of giving a “blank” during your performance.

Find out the below tips and find out more about what you could do in case you have a blank during public speaking :

Maintain Eye Contact

 If you forget your content, continue to maintain eye contact with your audience. It sounds like this act will make you more nervous, but maintaining eye contact is a great way to reduce anxiety.

 While keeping your gaze steady, work with the dramatic pause. After all, your audience doesn’t know what should happen on that slide. Only you know.

  Therefore, the sum of the look and the pause indicates that you purposely stopped, reinforcing your last argument. This little break might be all you need to get back to thinking, and it’s infinitely better than staring at the ceiling in despair.  

Save time 

Buying time can lessen your nervousness and make you remember words. So you can ask the audience a question, check your material or even change slides. 

 Another handy tip is to repeat the last information presented. Take it up in other words and reinforce some crucial points.

 Rely on your visual resources 

When we create slides and presentations, the idea is that this material fulfills two objectives at the same time: to illustrate content informing your audience, but also as visual triggers for your speech. 

 So, when creating your slides, find out which one works best for you: images, texts, icons, key messages, etc. 

 Remember: you make the show, not your presentation. Thus, the visual should not replace your speech but reinforce your messages, preferably with graphic representations that achieve communication results that words alone cannot.

  If you get lost, you can always turn to your visual aid to help you, but don’t fall into the trap of getting stuck reading your content during your presentation. 

 Ask for help 

In some contexts, it is acceptable to ask the audience to indicate where you were in your presentation.  

Of course, this tip is more appropriate in casual environments, particularly in a more interactive environment, where the presentation has a lot of interaction with the audience and the presenter can be more “relaxed” and lead it as a great dynamic. 

Don’t Memorize: Understand 

The more you prepare, the better you’ll be able to handle any tricky situation in your presentation. It’s not possible to altogether avoid a “blank” moment in your production, but it is perfectly doable to reduce the chances of it happening by preparing and rehearsing your content.

 If you want to minimize the chances of having a “blank” during your presentation, forget about decorating your content and focus on understanding it most broadly and deeply possible.

  Realize that memorizing information only increases your chances of forgetting something and getting lost along the way. 

 Instead of memorizing every word you say, understand your messages and their positions in your content. And that thought process itself can help you recover quickly if you have a “blank.” 

 It is even more efficient than memorizing because if you need to learn content, you will find that you will need to rehearse three times more than when you understand the order of the arguments and where you should end up.  

Rehearsal 

There are good reasons why artists and great presenters rehearse so much. This practice offers greater control and awareness over the material and builds trust. So if you forget at some point, you’ll be more apt to remain calm than panic.  

Mastery of the material as a whole helps you to resume thinking, reducing the chances of you having a blank during a presentation.

3 Steps to Avoid a Brain Freeze during a Presentation


I – Expectations Management
– Create realistic expectations of your performance and avoid worrying about past negative results.
– If you had a bad performance in the past, it’s no use beating yourself up or reliving this experience;
– Make a list of what went wrong and the lessons learned; you already have a guide of what to do or not to do in the future.


II – Preparation
– Prepare well for your presentation, master the content in fact and avoid memorizing precisely what has to be said; if you have the aid of slides, never put too long texts; prefer topics and images.
– Study and rehearse a lot; after all, repetition is the mother of learning.
– The essay will make you feel comfortable during the presentation, as your brain already knows the content and how it will be presented in detail and intimately.
– Never underestimate rehearsals; notice that actors (both theater and television) rehearse hard to make the scene as natural and perfect as possible.
– When we watch a play or a scene from a movie or soap opera, you can bet that hours and hours were spent in rehearsals and recordings to reach your eyes.


III – Mental Rehearsals
– Mental rehearsals of presentations will soften blanks happening at an exhibition.
– Mental rehearsals are nothing more than the visualization of how your performance will be; the richer in details, the better. Try putting colors, brightness, sounds, and smells in the mental images created.
– The truth is that our brain does not know how to distinguish what is the imagination of what is reality. 
– Let’s take a test for me to help you prove what I just said. First, you read the instructions, and then take the test, okay? 
Please close your eyes, take a deep breath, and start imagining the food you like best; it creates a stunning mental image and starts to smell the food and then its taste. If you do the exercise correctly, you likely stay in the mouth exactly how it would have seen the food.

Conclusion

If you have already gone through this, you are more likely to face another blank in the future. This is because the episode is marked in your emotional memory, generating more and more anxiety for the next performance due to the fear of repeating forgetfulness.

Whenever you have defined the subject, choose something that you master and enjoy talking about, this will help you feel confident and secure, making it less probable to have a blank during the presentation.

References and Further Reading 

What do I do when my mind goes blank?! Public speaking fear busters

The Ultimate Guide to Public Speaking

How to Save Your Presentation When Your Mind Goes BlankOpens in a new tab.

Emidio Amadebai

An avid seeker of knowledge, and passionate about sharing the lessons he picks up in life. Emidio is passionate about public speaking, teaching, and helping others develop critical soft skills, such as communication, leadership, and other interpersonal skills which are in high demand in today's rapidly evolving market.

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