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What to do when your mind goes blank in a high-pressure situation

You know it – but you can’t just recall it when you need it – the name of someone you’ve known for years, some business fact or number your boss asks you for in a meeting, the answer you know to a question during a presentation.

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You feel embarrassed. You feel as if all eyes are on you waiting for your answer – people judging you for not knowing something. Every second you freeze and fumble seems like an “excruciating eternity”.

Luckily, there are ways you can cope – simple reflexes you can develop.

Here are a few tips so you can be prepared and recover smoothly if YOUR mind ever goes blank.

1. Don’t make a big thing of it
2. Express things in the positive
3. Keep moving – don’t slow down and freeze. Don’t get bogged down in embarrassment!

In other words – remember that famous slogan: KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.

But HOW do you keep calm and carry on when you feel under so much pressure to perform?

1. Don’t make a big thing of it.

Look at the way experienced newsreaders carry on if they make a mistake. They calmly correct a mistake and keep moving on. Try not to draw too much attention to yourself. They will often correct a mistake with a simple “rather – then the correct word or name” and keep on going. They don’t pull embarrassed faces or say “I stuffed up there” or “How embarrassing!”

Try not to look too embarrassed or distressed. Keep smiling calmly. Don’t apologise TOO MUCH. Maybe, a brief apology – depending on how big the mistake. Don’t keep apologizing. Carry On.

2. Express things in the positive.

Instead of saying “I forgot” or “I can’t remember” – get into the habit of having positive responses – both in language and attitude.

For example:

“I DO know this”


“I will remember this”


“Let’s keep going. it will come to me”

The more you panic, the harder you squeeze to remember something, the more pressure you feel and put yourself under – the less likely you will be able to remember something. You are more likely to remember if you relax and keep moving.

3. Keep moving

For example, practise delivering a positive response like this. You can create your own wording for different circumstances you may find yourself in.

Express it calmly and confidently and positively.

“I DO know this. Let’s keep talking and it will come to me.”

Chances are, when you or others keep talking about other things and you stop trying to “squeeze your brain” – you will recall what you need to know.

TB international presentation coach

When I help business leaders prepare for presentations or media interviews – we practise delivering such calm, confident and positive responses.

When you have trained in how to react if a problem does arise, you often feel more relaxed and prepared.

It’s best to practise “emergency moves” before you need to use them in a real situation.

TB Def Cor DC

I know I can be a bit “gung ho” about this – however my clients appreciate being prepared.

I like that old movie quote – or maybe it’s a quote from Defence Correspondent training:

The more you sweat in training – the less you bleed in battle.

It’ll come to me! Just exactly where the quote is from! Let’s just stay calm and carry on 🙂


TB LL mosaic

If you enjoyed this post – Let’s connect:
If you found this post interesting you can follow me and connect with me.
I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious business communication tips.

Linked In – under Tony Biancotti
Or you can follow this blog.

These days, lots of people and organisations need help with how to COPE with too much work, too much information, too many meetings, delivering difficult news, business writing, effective e-mail, e-mail overload, cross-cultural communication, better social media engagement etc. I like to help people COPE.



One comment on “What to do when your mind goes blank in a high-pressure situation

  1. efangelist
    August 31, 2015

    Reblogged this on efangelist.

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This entry was posted on February 23, 2015 by in Uncategorized.
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