Getting a mental block in the middle of your presentation isn’t the end of the world. Even the most experienced public speakers have had mental blocks at least once in their lives. However, the best pitches aren’t the ones that are pulled off perfectly. In fact, they’re the ones that speakers were able to rebound from successfully after a misstep.
If you’re having problems with your train of thought, you can still overcome it with a few simple techniques.
Look at Your Notes
Presenters often favor spontaneity over their script. Sometimes they even forego the standard outline. What they don’t realize is that without a solid guide, they become more prone to experiencing mental blocks. Not everybody can keep track of their thoughts and deliver a pitch at the top of their heads. Most of the time, presenters who come in totally unprepared fumble halfway through their speech.
To prevent the embarrassment of not knowing what to say next, it’s alright to refer to your notes occasionally, especially for your major points.Your goal is to communicate effectively with your audience, and you can’t do that if you’re rambling or if you’re too stunned to talk. If keeping notes at hand distracts you and limits your body movement, you can also memorize your script. Just make sure you wrote it with a natural delivery in mind. Otherwise, your stiff speech won’t convince anyone.
Pause for Effect
It may seem counterintuitive, but pauses in your speech can also help you get over your mental block. If you find yourself in a tight spot, don’t feel ashamed to pause and collect your thoughts. Instead of biding time with filler words, pausing creates anticipation for what you’re about to say.
RedRover Sales & Marketing managing partner Lori Turner-Wilson writes in her article on the Memphis Daily about how the human mind takes about eight seconds to make a firm first impression of you. The same eight-second rule may apply to your pitch, so use your moments of silence wisely.
Take time to stop before every major idea. You can also pause to punctuate your speech, making it seem more natural to listen to.
Don’t Forget to Breathe
One of the leading causes of presentation mental block is anxiety. Calming your nerves helps you remember anything you might have forgotten because of panic. Research shows that breathing helps relax the mind and increase productivity. Whenever you get tongue-tied on stage, take a deep breath. This will prevent you from stressing out over your loss of words.
At the same time, don’t be too hard on yourself for not remembering what you were going to say. Remember that the audience doesn’t know your speech the way you do. You have total control over your pitch, so be confident enough to handle yourself gracefully.
To Sum It Up: Relax and Regroup
Experiencing mental block is every public speaker’s greatest obstacle, and they can strike at any time. Be honest with yourself when you’re experiencing it during your speech. Instead of panicking and resorting to filler words, remember that it’s acceptable to look at your notes every now and then to keep track.
If you’re really out of words to say, pause before every important part in your speech. People won’t mind. They’ll just think you’re building up towards your next point. Finally, whenever you feel that your fear is getting ahead of you, take a deep breath. Deep breathing helps clear your mind to recall your next points.
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Turner-Wilson, Lori. “8-Second Rule of First Impressions.” Memphis Daily News. n.d. www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2011/jul/20/8-second-rule-of-first-impressions
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