speaking-in-publicDon’t you hate that? You are in the middle of a sales presentation, or telling a funny story and suddenly, you can’t think of what comes next! Try as you might, the mind’s gone blank and you have no idea how to finish.

It happened to me in a very public way many years ago, and I can still remember my embarrassment now. I was delivering an oration on Nobel prizewinner, Ernest Rutherford (Lord Rutherford of Nelson) who was the amazing chemist who discovered how to split the atom.

At almost the last minute, I added a section into my notes because I had found out more about his early childhood in New Zealand.

All was going well until I came to the point where the new section started and I stopped. My mind was a blank. You see, I’d practised the new part on its own and not in sequence, so under the pressure of all those people listening to me, my memory couldn’t cope.

Pressure on your memory comes from many quarters:

  • when you’re tense 
  • afraid or in panic
  • when you’re under pressure, multi-tasking 
  • if you feel angry, emotionally charged or under threat

Feelings of loneliness, insecurity or confusion can lead to mental blocks, too.

In the midst of the ever-increasing pace of our technological world, these blank moments occur in even the youngest of adults.

What is usually happening is that the sustained release of adrenalin actually decreases the efficiency of essential brain connections required for you to remember well.

Your memory is complex.
An amazing set of reactions and processes occur to help you recall information.
It works best when you are operating in ‘normal’ mode and not stressed.

So what can be done to clear a mental block?

  1. Check that nothing physical causing the condition, particularly if it is happening more frequently than twice a week.
  2. Honestly evaluate how you rate on a stress questionnaire. Stress, if sustained over a long period of time, can cause mental blocks. Stress Questionnaire
  3. Relaxation helps clear mental blocks, so take a few deep breaths and exhale slowly. Rotate your shoulders and loosely shake your arms and hands to relieve tension.
  4. Don’t panic – if you are in a public situation, make a humorous comment and move on. Find another way to continue and, chances are, the lost thought will pop back into your mind seconds later.
  5. Thinking about the task you were undertaking in a different way will sometimes clear the block, also.
  6. Re-framing your thinking and looking at other possibilities will also give you new brain connections to approach the task.

How do you re-frame your thinking?

Here’s an example:

A famous problem was solved when the makers of hotel elevators tried to overcome the many complaints they received about the slowness of even their newest elevators. After spending a lot of time analyzing the machinery and the physical impact on patrons of increased elevator speeds, some clever thinkers redefined the problem.

Why did hotel guests complain?
Why did the lifts seems so slow?

Answer: Because they had nothing to do while they were waiting!
When visible screens indicated the progress of the elevator, and mirrors were installed inside and outside the elevators, the complaints ceased.

Trust your brain – given the right conditions, your brain will remember.
If you can control factors surrounding you at the time, mental blocks will be a thing of the past.

Or, if they occur, you know what to do.

  • Relax,
  • Laugh,
  • Re-frame
  • and Respond.

For more information, read also Mental block Rescue Plan

Do you have other tips that have worked for you? Please share them to help others.