How To Handle A Brain Freeze During A Presentation
Posted by Damon Nofar | December 12, 2017
You are standing in front of everyone. The introduction went great and your confidence is high. Suddenly you blank out. You look at the audience, trying to find the script in your head. Nothing. Somehow everything you have rehearsed for several days has just disappeared. You smile nervously, your palms are getting sweaty.
What do you do?
We have all experienced it and it's horrible. But there are ways to handle it. And the way you handle a brain freeze, or temporary blackout, will most certainly determine the success of your presentation. Because in all honesty, the risk of getting a blackout will always be there, no matter how much you rehearse.
Before we look at how we can handle these awkward situations, let me share three tips on how you can avoid it from happening:
Don't memorize your work
One of the worst things you can do is to strictly memorize your presentation. Why? Because if something breaks your structure or you miss a rehearsed sentence, then you are lost.
You should learn your presentation, know it by heart. Practice on your presentation structure, but keep your presentation professionally spontaneous by speaking with passion and knowledge. Not with rehearsed words.
Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
The amount of time you put in rehearsing your presentation will be key for your success. If you know what you will talk about by heart, the risk of having a blackout is minimal. However, be flexible with your initial script and make changes during your rehearsals.
For example, if your script says "as a direct result of this strategy, we have become very profitable" and during preparation you say "because of this strategy, our company is now showing great profits". Then don't try to learn or memorize your initial script, keep what came naturally to you and you will not take the risk of forgetting that.
Relax your nerves
People tend to forget that the audience has no idea what you have prepared to say. You are there to inform the audience and they are there to listen to you. So, don't put too much pressure on yourself. Stay confident, relax your nerves and rock your presentation in your own way. Relax and connect with the audience in the same way as you talk to anyone else. They are humans as well.
Let's say you still blackout. How can you handle that?
Print your script as a backup It could be a clever idea to print your presentation script and keep it next to your computer or on the table/podium in front of you when you are presenting. This can give a comforting feeling to those who are a bit nervous about public speaking. Try not to hold the script in your hands while presenting, as it will be very tempting for you to read directly from it.
In case you would get a brain freeze, you take a proper pause and check your script to get back on track, and continue your presentation as if nothing happened. The audience will never notice the 5-10 second pause as long as you play it good and show confidence despite the sudden memory loss.
The show must go on The worst part of a sudden blackout is when the presenter shows their discomfort in the situation. This in turn makes the audience uncomfortable which can ruin the whole presentation. Always remember that the show must go on.
Pause. Breathe. And move to another point if you are totally blanked. If you keep your confidence, the audience will show confidence in you. Do this transition smoothly and no one will notice anything.
I remember a presentation I had back in university. It was a business case contest, my team was in the semifinals and up against another team. We had to present our case to the class and afterwards they would choose the winner. I was the final speaker, and somewhere in the middle of my speech I went blank. I knew my speech by heart. I knew the whole case by heart. But something got me off. And just as I thought the world would end, it all came back to me again. I did my speech and we won the case.
Afterwards I looked through my script and saw that I had forgotten to mention a whole paragraph.