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What to do when your mind goes blank when giving a speech

Ginger Leadership Communications

You’re super prepared. You’ve spent weeks and weeks planning, practicing, and performing this really amazing speech. You’ve put your blood, sweat, tears, and anything else you have to spare into this piece of perfection you’ve lovingly created. You’ve GOT this. You start off swimmingly, the audience is loving it (and you) and then it happens… that ‘Oh NO’ moment when your realize not only have you forgotten what you’re supposed to say next… it seems your mind goes blank completely.

It’s happened to all of us at one point or another. There ARE ways you can pull yourself out of the ‘mind goes blank’ phase. Here’s how…

Stop Worrying

First off, I’d encourage you to allow your worries to pass about your bad memory, or forgetting your ‘lines’ when you public speak – and focus on the delivery, the heart, and the feeling you put behind your words. There will be some key messages, key stories, key facts and figures you may want to get across when you are public speaking. But every single word you say in between those doesn’t need to be perfect. Focusing on ‘getting your lines perfect’ can just make our public speaking seem stilted and nervy.

Live Your Story

To help your memory in public speaking, think of yourself as a storyteller who’s going from one part of a story to the next. If you live the story as you tell it, you will be much less likely to forget it – because it’s something you’ve experienced. We can only forget what we’ve ‘learned’! You never forget how you met your partner, or the first time you went to India (or whatever). Memory works best when you speak from within your experience.

Admit it

It’s completely okay to let the audience know you aren’t perfect. In fact they’ll prefer you being genuine over you standing there and saying “UM”.  You could say, “I got so caught up in what I was saying I lost my place. Where was I?” Someone will tell you. (This is especially true if earlier in your introduction you outlined your main points.) Making your audience part of your presentation is a never a bad thing. It shows you value their interaction and that’s always good.


Instead of learning your lines, or reading from pages of notes, try a simple memory aid for your public speaking. Condense your speech content down into bullet point that you can make sense of quickly if you lose your place. There’s no way four pages of notes will help you if you go blank – but a simple page of bullet points will be accessible at a glance.

Take The Pressure OFF

As soon as you go blank in public speaking, the common response is to place extra pressure and extra thoughts into your mind that say, “Gosh you’ve not only gone blank but you’re an idiot for going blank.”  

That can cause a spiral of panicked negativity which stops you from being relaxed and makes you less likely to recover and find your words.

In order to engage brain and speak in a way that is powerful, you need to feel relaxed and confident. So the best way to remember your speech is to be relaxed and to remember that your audience doesn’t care about precise words, or 100% perfection.

Nobody else knows what your plan is as a speaker, no one else has a script of your words that they’re testing you against. So when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter if you stick to your script or not… your audience will never know!  Have you ever gone completely blank when speaking? How did you deal with it? I’d love to hear your stories below!

Ginger Leadership Communications

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