Help my mind goes blank when I talk? Presentation Skills Fear #2

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Executive Summary

Help My Mind Goes Blank When I Talk? Presentation Skills Fear #2

  • Avoid memorising verbatim; it creates unnecessary pressure and restricts natural conversation.
  • Use a clear presentation structure, such as the 4MAT® method, to organize your key points logically.
  • Create concise index cards with only a few words and illustrations as prompts, helping you focus on the main ideas and avoid losing your train of thought.

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In our presentation skills training courses we get to hear about most people’s fears – so we thought we’d collate a top 5.

We want you to know you aren’t alone if you have a fear of forgetting what to say … some similar fears we’ve included under this one are things like “what if I lose track of my thoughts” or ‘what if I forget the exact words?’

Some people learn things off by heart in order to bury this fear, but by doing that they are really causing themselves more problems. They are keeping themselves on the Downward Monkey Spiral (a negative spiral of thoughts). As soon as we ask our brain to remember something off by heart (unless we are very practised at it like an actor) it can be tricky to remember everything. Even if we do remember – we might put so much energy into remembering that other elements get missed out.

Here are some presentation skills tips on what to do instead. Firstly you’ll need to tame any Public Speaking Monkeys (or negative self talk) which is over exaggerating the fear in the first place.

Presentation Structure – Then, in order to easily remember what to say you need a structure a bit like a mug tree. Without a mug tree there’s nowhere to hang your mugs! Without a structure there is nowhere to hang your key points. I make a mind map of my key points and use the 4MAT® structure illustrated opposite (which I talk about in my book, “Taming Your Public Speaking Monkeys”). This helps you keep to the key points in the best order for the audience.

Presentation notes – If you need to make notes then write index cards with just a few words and illustrations on each card. I have a rule of three points with no more than two words. Then add a doodle that means something to you for each point as per the illustration.

This makes you focus only on the key points so you then talk naturally around those; trusting your mind to fill in the information. Of course this assumes that you are talking on an area that you are well versed in!

Keep the index cards near you (perhaps on the desk to the side but not in your hands) in case you need to quickly revert to them. This is much better than having a whole script in front of you – as you have very little chance of ever finding your place again. Here’s a really good cheat: if you keep your note cards near your glass of water – you’ll be able to take a sneaky peek at your notes with no one even noticing!

Read Presentation Fear #3!


Here at Simply Amazing Training Ltd we love running in-house bespoke presentation skills courses. We work with you to fill any skills gaps in presenting using our unique C.L.E.A.R. Presentations approach:

CONFIDENCE – Our multi-award-winning “Public Speaking Monkeys” approach helps participants find their “Real Confidence” which comes from the inside

LEARN – We enable participants to identify their personal style and learn to maximise it so they are ALWAYS authentic

ENGAGING – In today’s busy world this skill is essential but often under used! We show participants how to engage appropriately with any audience

ACTION – If no one takes action from the presentation then nothing will change – we show participants how to shape their whole presentation to inspire action.

REVIEW – To master your art, review and refinement is essential. A one or two day presentation skills course and then back to the desk isn’t the only way – we encourage pre and post-training learning and implementation

Author: Dee Clayton

Dee Clayton - Simply Amazing TrainingDee Clayton, an acclaimed coach and winner of the prestigious Overall National UK NBW Award in 2022, has over 30 years of experience in communication. With over half of her career as an author, mentor, and trainer. Dee offers a distinctive blend of skills and insights. Her mission is clear: to empower high-performing individuals to excel further, while guiding their teams to unprecedented success. Connect with Dee via LinkedIn.

Posted by Dee Clayton on 11 Mar 2013

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