When Your Mind Goes Blank In Front of Your Audience

During a Q & A session that followed one of my recent presentations, a successful business women reported that, even though she was well-prepared and well-rehearsed, her mind had gone completely blank in the middle of a business presentation.  She asked what can be done in such a situation, to save face in front of her listeners.

Here is a strategy to get you back on track as seamlessly as possible, if your mind suddenly goes blank and you are not using notes to deliver your talk.

Do what actors do:  improvise your way back.

1.  Think about the last sentence that you said before your mind went blank, and remember the final word, phrase, or idea you uttered.  Generate a new sentence using that same word/phrase/idea as the first word/phrase/idea of your new sentence.  You will be “riffing” on your own previous idea.  For example, consider this sentence:  “Many CLOs believe that podcasting is oversold because few people are auditory learners.”

2 .  Take that last phrase “auditory learners” and begin a new sentence, such as “Auditory learners are in the minority and respond best when the auditory input is varied.”   While you are stretching the time by improvising on this idea, think about your planned speech and try to recall the idea you originally forgot.

3.  Continue this process (using the last idea of a sentence to generate a new sentence), until your original point returns to your memory.  Your improvised sentences may not be the most fascinating, but you will be able to hold forth and gain time to compose yourself and think.

Practise improvising in this way on a regular basis, so that you will increase your comfort level when you have to do it in front of an audience!

This technique of improvisation is very useful in getting you back on track as seamlessly as possible and saving face during a moment that is often considered to be one of the most harrowing and dreaded for any speaker.