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Dead Air: A Public Speaker’s Worst Nightmare

Picture this: you’re halfway through your customized PowerPoint presentation and you’re increasingly confident because your audience is responding positively. Suddenly, however, your mind goes blank and everything you’re supposed to say suddenly disappears.

Then, you turn to your audience and think to yourself, “What was I going to say again?”

Everyone has been in this situation at some point in their lives—while retelling a story to a friend or while discussing something in front of the class. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Yes, it can be hard to shake off, but it is preventable.

How do you prevent going blank in the first place?


There are speakers that wish to finish their presentations in half the time they allotted, but that doesn’t mean that you should skim through your topic to achieve that.

While it’s important that you keep the language of your discussion at a level where everyone in the audience will understand it, it is possible to go too far. The more you try to simplify words and phrases, you may find yourself in a web of thoughts that is difficult to tie back together.


When you memorize your pitch, the way you relay your message to the audience becomes more mechanical, detached, compared to knowing it like the back of your hand, taking every key point to heart.

The moment anxiety kicks in, everything you’ve memorized will disappear. It’s easy to lose your focus during a presentation. Saying the wrong word or turning to the wrong slide can immediately distract you.

When you internalize your presentation, there’s still a possibility of losing your footing, but you’ll get back on track just as quick.

Just remember to rehearse as much as you can so it results in delivering your pitch conversationally. This makes it easier for your audience to pick up on the emotions that you’re coaxing from them.


Mispronouncing a word or stuttering can throw you off your game, but these should be the least of your worries. Correct yourself and move along. There’s no use dwelling on it and stopping halfway because you’re embarrassed—it’s normal.


Have you ever stopped in the middle of a presentation because you felt like it was all for naught? If so, you might be experiencing typical feelings of the impostor syndrome, especially if it’s your first time pitching in front of a large audience, as this is more likely to happen to those embarking on a new endeavor.

First recognized in the 1970s by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance, PhD, and Suzanne Imes, PhD, the impostor phenomenon is a specific form of intellectual self-doubt, common among overachievers who are unable to internalize their success.

Talk to your mentors, recognize your expertise, and remember what you do well—you’ll be fine.

Many factors contribute to going blank during presentations—lack of confidence, over-preparation—and these may affect your effectiveness as a speaker.

Before the big day, take this moment to go over your pitch and leave the deck creation to business PowerPoint agencies to maximize your time. Breathe, internalize, and keep a level head always.

3 More Ways to Memorize Presentations Easily

In the past, we discussed a classic technique that you could use to memorize presentations. Heavily featured in the BBC show “Sherlock,” the memory palace technique allows you to use a mental image of any space or location to remember key points in your speech. It’s very effective, often used by memory athletes to memorize a random names or cards in under a few seconds.

Of course, the memory palace technique will take longer for newbies who are looking to memorize presentations. If you find it a bit challenging to focus on building your own mind space, there are other methods to help improve your memory and reduce your use of note cards. You’ll never have to worry about mental blocks with these 3 additional ways to memorize presentations.

1. Rehearse your presentation out loud

It’s not enough to just read your presentation again and again. If you really want to memorize presentations, you have to make time for a few rehearsals. According to a study published in 2010, memory can improve by more than 10 percent if information is spoken and repeated out loud.

So give yourself time to rehearse your presentation for more than just a few times. You can also make things easier by recording your sessions. Hearing yourself speak will help in internalizing your presentation. It will also help you pinpoint which parts might need more improvement.

2. Keep your rehearsals within the 20-20-20 rule

While repeated rehearsals are important, experts also recommend to keep sessions within the 20-20-20 rule. According to this rule, it will be easier to memorize presentations by reviewing your material for 20 minutes and then repeating the information twice for 20 minutes each. If you’re dealing with longer presentations, you can break up your speech into manageable parts and work piece by piece.

3. Make a mind map of your presentation

It will also help if you can visualize how your ideas and arguments relate to one another. Through a mind map, you can see the logical progression of your presentation. The shape or image you come up with will make it easier to remember how one point connects to the next, as opposed to simply having a list or outline as reference. To make sure your mind map works effectively,  use different colors for each “branch”. You can also add drawings that illustrate your points.

Other helpful tips:

  • Avoid distractions.  It will be hard to focus when you have to periodically answer emails and text messages. Always rid your practice sessions of any distraction. Step away from your computer and turn off notifications for your phone for a while. Keep your attention on the task at hand.
  • Make time for short breaks. Even as you work hard to deliver a great presentation, don’t forget to reward yourself with short breaks. Give yourself time to relax in between each rehearsal to keep your creativity flowing.
  • Get enough sleep. Sleep is also a crucial ingredient in memory improvement. According to several studies, there’s a strong relationship between sleep and memory. As an article on Psychology Today points out, “There is no longer any doubt. Sleep does improve the gelling or consolidation of memory for recently encoded information.” Make sure you get enough rest on the days leading up to your presentation.

As you know, preparing for a big presentation involves a lot of effort. Aside from perfecting your slides and content, you also need to make sure that you remember everything you have to say. Memorize presentations by setting time to rehearse and visualize your materials. You can breeze through your time on stage and never have to worry about your note cards again.


Featured Image: Brian Hillegas via Flickr