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Marketing / Presentation skills

Overcoming mind blanks

It’s a presenter’s biggest fear – to be lost for words in front of their audience. But there are ways to avoid and recover from mind blanks during a presentation. Here are four tips.

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Have you ever been part way through a presentation and suddenly gone blank? You don’t remember where you were up to in your presentation and, to make matters worse, your audience has noticed and are watching your every move, compounding your memory loss.

In reality, unless you confess out loud that you’ve had a mind blank, the audience’s silence is more likely the sound of them digesting the information you’ve been presenting to them. They may be relating to it at an emotional level or may be thinking about how they can apply the information to their unique situation.

Most people in your audience won’t notice you’ve had a mind blank, so long as you maintain a confident exterior. Don’t let on, and they will be none the wiser. That’s the first point to remember.

Here are four more tips on overcoming mind blanks:

1. Prepare 

Follow the Five Ps – Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.

"Follow the Five Ps – Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance."

By preparing both your material and yourself you will feel more comfortable and confident when it comes time to deliver your presentation. Know your material and practise as often as possible prior to presenting.

The more comfortable you feel with your content and any visual aids, the more confident you will feel when you deliver your presentation.

2. Breathe 

Have you ever sat through an interview and realised at the end that you had not breathed throughout that time?

Breathing from the diaphragm helps to relax your muscles and ensures oxygen gets to the brain so that you can think clearly whilst speaking.

Want more articles like this? Check out the  presentation skills section.

3. Fake it till you make it

Social psychologist Amy Cuddy, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, has provided research on how our body language can have an impact on how we think and behave.

Essentially, if your body language is showing confidence and you continue to practise this in your stance at every opportunity then your mind will ‘believe’ it, too. What happens when we think we can? We can!

By gaining confidence, the mind is less likely to go blank at crucial moments during your presentation.

4. Ask the audience

If a mind blank does happen, try confidently asking your audience the question: ‘Where are we at?’

By doing this, you will engage the audience during your presentation and give yourself time to gather your thoughts.

It also encourages the audience members to think about what has been covered. By verbalising their interpretation of the topic, they are able to internalise what they’ve learnt from your presentation. So it’s a win-win situation.

Practising these tips on overcoming mind blanks will help you to prevent and confidently deal with those moments when your mind goes blank during a presentation. For more presentation tips, watch this video.

Have you ever had a mind blank during a presentation? What techniques do you use to help you overcome mind blanks?

Maria Pantalone

works with individuals and teams in developing their business communication skills. Her company, Infinite Growth, provides training in presentation skills, business writing and leadership development. Armed with these skills, there is nothing a business person cannot achieve.

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