Superior Presentations 62: Recover from a Presentation Brownout

When you forget what to say next

How to Recover from a Brownout

Perhaps this has happened to you. Every speaker faces this problem at some point during a presentation. You can prepare yourself to handle the brownout and recover masterfully.

What is a Brownout?

While you are speaking - you suddenly forget what you intended to say next. Your brain didn't totally blackout. It simply browned out and you felt terrible. You might even feel embarrassed, foolish and anxious.

What can you do?

Ignore the over-powering impulse to drop your jaw and let this annoying sound escape from your mouth: "ahhhhhhhhh."
Don't look sheepish and confess, "I forgot what comes next".
Don't frown and search the ceiling for your words.
Instead, pause and smile while looking at your audience.
You won't feel like doing that, but that is exactly what you should do. Why? Because if you pause and frown the audience knows that you are in trouble. When you pause and smile they believe that you are in complete control. They might assume that you are pausing for effect.
Your audience doesn't need to know that you have experienced a brownout. You want to convey the image that you are in control of your presentation.
When you pause and smile you accomplish two things. First you show the audience that you are confident, and secondly the pause and smile might be calming enough to get your brain back on track.

What if that doesn't help you remember?

Another recovery technique is to repeat the last word or phrase that you said. The effect can be like rewinding the tape in your brain. You need to back up a bit to renew your forward momentum.
If that doesn't work then pose a rhetorical question, "Where do we go from here?" The question will trigger your brain to work on answering the question. The audience will believe that you are posing the question for emphasis.
If you still can't remember and don't answer the question people in your audience are likely to offer answers to your question. If they were listening closely they will probably be right and you simply carry on with your presentation as if nothing ever went wrong.
Remember to keep smiling.

George Torok

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