What Do You Do When You Blank?

What Do You Do When You Blank During SpeechesYou’ve practiced your speech in front of the mirror. In the car. In front of the dog. The dog has it memorized. You know it.

You’re sailing along smoothly. Then, all of a sudden, your mind goes blank. You look at the audience with the “deer-in-the-headlights” stare for what seems like an eternity as your mind frantically gropes for the next phrase.

Has that ever happened to you? What do you do when your blank? Morningstars Toastmasters weighs in:

No One Except You Knows What You Left Out
Over the years I’ve found that the more you attempt to memorize a speech word for word the greater the chances are you’ll forget something. Those instances tend to bring on acute panic. My suggestion is to learn your material well. If you’re doing a speech where every word is crucial use notes and stay behind the lectern. Otherwise if your mind goes blank take a deep breath and resume with what you remember. And always realize that no one except you will know exactly what you’ve left out. — Cathie R.

Use Lectern For a Sense of Grounding
If you are talking about speeches, I still use notes a lot.  They may consist of only a few words but they can re-establish my location of subject if I stumble.


I remember a surprise situation when I was introduced and invited to the stage for some kind of presentation.  After I had left the stage; the chair, in thanking me, compared his 10 pages of notes to the audience with my torn corner of the program on which I had made some hastily penned words but had left behind on the lectern.  That was ‘preparation’ and Table Topics at its best.  Also, it saved me by having some sense of quick organization and security.


I also come from what maybe an ‘old school’ use/reliance on a lectern for a sense of grounding; if and when those moments occur.  Also, I’ve used the simple pause, albeit ‘rather extended’ occasionally, to regain what has escaped my mind.  With or without apology, listeners will stay with you.


A blank mind can be a minor terror but practice and experience, especially in the safe Toastmaster environment, will prepare one for almost every memory falter.  I certainly have experienced it all. — Frank C.

Calmly Walk Back to the Lectern
I’ve seen pros just calmly walk back to the lectern where their script lies waiting for just such a glitch. I don’t think that having notes handy is such a bad thing. The key is “calmly,” I guess. — PJ R.

Use the Time to Pause
When I blank – I begin to desperately try to connect with what I am saying, eyes rolling up or closing to shut out the fact that there is a listener out there. My idea is to use that time to pause, smile warmly at my audience, hold my own hand metaphorically speaking, do-dropping surreptitiously to disconnect emotionally from all the other times it has happened and miraculously say something totally brilliant – much better than what I was trying to remember. — Sandy W.

Shift Topic, Keep Talking
Oh, I would love that kind of opportunity to talk about my philosophical thought on life and getting up(very big deal in my life so far).   So yeah I completely go into what I originally intended and talk as “emergency news!”   Or can talk about other things I like such as what I like to eat, and what combination of food I like to eat, or how much I like to eat.  I used to dream of swimming in a sweet whipcream and drink as much as I want.

In other words I would shift the topic of what I like and keep talking.  Then probably the original topic would come back then its a choice to continue talking about the new side topic or old original topic. — Ben R.

A Matter of Feeling Capable
I have no techniques. My mind goes blank the instant a Table Topics question is posed. It can be a simple question or a deep thinker. Doesn’t matter. I’m blank. Frozen. It’s not so much a matter of forgetting as it is a matter of feeling capable of remembering that I have a lot of knowledge, that I used to have stronger opinions, that my ideas are valid. And believing that I won’t be laughed at, ignored, invalidated, or interrupted. All things to work on. Looking forward to reading about the techniques of others–I could use a few!!! — Sheila C.

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