What To Do When You Go Blank

Public speaking is a skill that many people aspire to master, yet one of the most common fears associated with it is the dreaded moment when your mind goes blank. 

Going blank undermines confidence and makes the prospect of speaking in front of an audience daunting. 

However, with the right strategies and preparation, overcoming this fear and becoming an effective and confident speaker is possible.

This blog will explore various techniques to help you manage and mitigate the risk of your mind going blank during public speaking.

Understanding the problem

Before discussing the solutions, it’s important to understand why our minds go blank in high-pressure situations. 

The phenomenon often occurs due to stress, nervousness, and the overwhelming pressure to perform perfectly. 

When we are under stress, our brains can sometimes “freeze,” making it difficult to recall information or articulate thoughts clearly. 

This can happen in various scenarios, such as during speeches, interviews, team meetings or even casual conversations.

So, what can we do to slim down the chances of going blank?

Use personal stories

One of the most effective ways to ensure you don’t lose your train of thought during a speech is to incorporate personal stories. 

Stories are inherently easier to remember than memorised lines because they are based on real experiences.

When you recount a story, you are recalling a series of events that you lived through, which makes it less likely that you will forget important details.

For example, instead of trying to memorise a list of points about leadership, you might tell a story about a time when you had to lead a team through a challenging project. The specific details of the project and your experiences will be much easier to remember than abstract concepts.

To incorporate stories effectively:

  • Identify key points in your speech where a personal story can illustrate your message.
  • Practice telling these stories in a natural, conversational tone.
  • Focus on the emotions and lessons learned from the experience to make the story engaging and memorable.

Learn to handle pressure and nerves

The pressure to deliver a flawless speech can be overwhelming and is often a major contributor to memory lapses. 

To manage this pressure and associated public speaking anxiety, it’s crucial to adopt techniques that help you stay calm and composed.

Start by abandoning the pursuit of perfection. Nobody is perfect.

Accept that making minor mistakes is part of the learning process; don’t let it detract from your overall performance.

The second aspect is preparation and familiarity. 

The more familiar you are with your material, the less likely you are to forget it. 

Practice your speech multiple times until you feel comfortable with the content.

The third aspect is about expecting the unexpected.

No matter how well-prepared you are, unexpected situations can arise. Technology can fail, distractions can occur, and unforeseen events can throw you off your game. 

Here’s how to handle these situations with grace:

  • Stay composed. If the microphone stops working or a slide doesn’t load, remain calm and address the issue confidently. Nobody is going to laugh at you or think you’re a fraud.
  • Have a backup plan for technical failures, such as printed notes or a different way to present your content.

Learn to use the pause

If you lose your place or get distracted during a speech, it’s perfectly acceptable to take a moment to pause. 

This brief pause provides you with an opportunity to regroup and recall your next point without appearing flustered or anxious. 

Pausing can also help maintain the flow of your speech and prevent any awkward moments. 

Additionally, addressing the situation with humor or honesty can be highly effective in engaging your audience. 

For instance, you might say, “I got so passionate about that last point, I lost my place!” 

Such a candid admission not only lightens the mood but also shows your audience that you are human and relatable. 

This approach can enhance your connection with the audience, demonstrating your ability to handle unexpected moments with poise and authenticity. 

Learn to properly prepare for your talk

Preparation minimises the risk of your mind going blank. 

Here are several methods to organise your speech content effectively:

Use bullet points

Split your talk into sections and make a bullet point under each section. It will give you a clear structure and a way to remember your material without needing to memorise it word for word. Highlight key phrases or concepts that you want to emphasize.

Create a mind map

Create a visual mind map of your speech. Start with the main topic in the center and branch out to subtopics and supporting points.

This method helps you visualise the flow of your speech and see connections between different ideas.

So, if you do lose your place, you can reffing your feet if you know how all the different points you’re presenting are connected.

Use mnemonics

Use mnemonics to remember the order of your points. 

For example, if you have five points to cover, create a word or phrase using the first letter of each point.

This technique is particularly useful for remembering lists or sequences.


Rehearsing is a crucial component of successful public speaking because it builds familiarity and confidence with your material, ensuring a smoother and more polished delivery. 

Through repeated practice, you can fine-tune your pacing, refine your gestures, and improve your overall stage presence. 

Rehearsing allows you to identify and address any weak points in your speech, making adjustments as needed to enhance clarity and impact. 

Moreover, it helps to reduce anxiety by making you more comfortable with the content and flow of your presentation. 

Use positive self-talk

Replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations. Remind yourself of your strengths and past successes.

Visualize a positive outcome for your speech and focus on the value you’re providing to your audience.

The audience doesn’t always know you’ve gone blank

One important thing to remember is that the audience does not know your planned content. 

They don’t have a script, so if you miss a point or change the order, they won’t notice. This perspective can be incredibly freeing.

Wrapping up

Overcoming the fear of your mind going blank during public speaking is achievable with the right preparation and mindset. 

By incorporating personal stories and using effective preparation techniques, you can build confidence and composure. 

With these strategies, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a confident and effective speaker.

And it’s always worth supplementing your self-help practices with the support of an experienced public speaking coach who can provide you with more tailored guidance or enrol in an online public speaking short course.

Good luck! And if you want to hear more from me, you can find me on:

share this

Coaching Services

Empowering Individuals, Teams, and Leaders through Communication Coaching

communication coaching for individuals
For individuals

Build Confidence with Personalised Coaching

Personalised communication coaching designed to empower you with the skills and natural confidence to excel in presentations and public speaking.

communication coaching for teams
For Teams

Optimise Business Team Communication Skills

Interactive and engaging communication skills training aimed at fostering better internal and external communication among business teams.

communication coaching for leaders
For Leaders

Tailored Coaching for Impactful Leadership

Bespoke one-on-one communication training for senior leaders, helping them to effectively communicate and lead with confidence, charisma and impact.