“I Know What to Say But I Blank Out!”, What Should You Do?

Why do I just blank out during talking?

I Know What to Say but I Blank Out! Have you experienced a similar situation but had no idea what to do? Don’t worry, we have got you covered.

Follow us through this article to explore why this happens to you. Discover the science behind why you might blank out right before giving your speech or presentation. Even when you know what to say. Public speaking can be the worst thing that can happen to the best of us.

Blanking out during your talk? 

To answer your question. This has got to do with your nervous system signaling to your brain when it spots a situation it sees as a threat to you. Which triggers the fight or flight mode response in your amygdala. Thus, leading you to blank out. What to do when you blank out? Follow this practical guide: using breathing and muscle exercises, practicing pausing, redirecting and identifying your thoughts, and finding your triggers and more will help. 

There are a whole lot of tips on the internet about “Why do I blank out when I talk?” Common reasons for blanking out when you talk include Stage fright, panic attacks, anxiety, not enough practice, and more. 

Is stage fright leading you to blank out?

Hrideep Barot: 3 Psychological Hacks to Beat Stage Fright & Get Better at Public Speaking.

Taking those steps towards the stage, turning around towards the mic, standing on the podium with the weighing expectations of the audience on your shoulders. With sweat beads forming on your head, you even feel like the mic is expecting you to say something that the audience instantly bursts into a round of applause. Stage fright can be a manifestation of anxiety. 

Surveys typically indicate that between 72-75% of the American population fears public speaking.

Stage fright, otherwise also known as perforated anxiety, is more common than you think. Having difficulty concentrating, sweating, trembling, increased heart rate, and dry mouth are some physical symptoms caused by stage fright. And mental symptoms such as fear and anxiety. 

What to do when you blank out on stage due to stage fright?

  1. Using broad gestures
  2. Moving around the stage
  3. Using the Art of Pause 

1. Using broad gestures to avoid the thought: I know what to say but I feel will blank out

No blanking out with stage fright. Here's what you can do.
Using broad gestures to avoid blanking out

Broad gestures serve as a visual aid. Using broad gestures portrays confidence, enthusiasm, and passion. These non-verbal cues help to not only deliver your thoughts and ideas clearly but also make them memorable. When you use broad gestures in your speech or the important sales pitch that you are delivering to your client. It helps them aid in memory retention. Thus, helping you create a dynamic presence on stage. 

2. Know that a little movement is your friend to prevent blanking out

Do you feel the tightening of your throat, jaw clenched, rigid upright shoulders, and the crawling pain at the back of your neck? Yeah, that which you are building and holding in your body is nervous energy. That you need to get rid of. 

You can do that by checking out your venue before heading to give the speech. Make purposeful use of that stage. Moving around will help you not only alleviate the nervous energy but also reduce the likelihood of blanking out.

3. Take a break: Using the Art of Pausing 

Speaking without blanking out using pause
Pause while talking to prevent blanking out

Pauses are important. One of the most obvious signs of nervousness is that we tend to talk too quickly. By pausing, you can take control of your thoughts, mentally prepare yourself, and regain composure quickly. It will also allow you to highlight important points in your speech, help you control the pace and flow of your delivery, and give you a chance to connect with your audience.

Taking intentional pauses will help you slow down, make eye contact, and foster a rapport with your audience. Additionally, pausing gives your audience time to reflect and actively engage with you. Don’t let the fear of mental blocks hold you back, even when you might experience moments of uncertainty or temporary memory lapses during your speech.

Imagine going on and on for a significant duration, not giving someone a chance to actively participate in the conversation at all. There are times when you may run out of subjects to discuss, and it’s normal to experience occasional mental blanks. Your mind may sometimes pause, hesitating between thoughts or ideas.

However, it’s important to remember that effective communication is a two-way process. Give your audience the time to reflect, encourage them to engage with you actively, and trust that your thoughts will flow smoothly even if you encounter temporary pauses or uncertainties. Embracing pauses and fostering audience interaction will enhance your speaking experience and help you overcome any apprehensions related to potential mental blocks.

Zoning out of a conversation due to anxiety?

Zoning out of conversation due to anxiety.
Zoning in and out of conversations due to anxiety

We all experience anxiety in high-stakes speaking situations. Studies suggest that the history of this anxiety, which occasionally surfaces and leads us to question many things, is surprisingly ingrained in our human evolution. This innate tendency causes us to constantly assess our status, worrying and questioning, “Where do I stand in this social hierarchy?” However, heightened self-consciousness and increased awareness of others’ perceptions can hinder our cognitive functioning, making it challenging to maintain a coherent train of thought.

These situations often result in blanking out, where we may find ourselves internally saying, “I know what to say, but I blank out.” This blanking out can lead to feelings of dissociation from our surroundings and even from ourselves. It’s important to remember that while feeling scared or worried can be overwhelming, there are strategies we can learn to manage the adrenaline rush and regain control over our speaking abilities.

When anxious while talking, don’t know what to say, or blank out, here’s what to do:

  1. The anxiety grounding method
  2. Breathing exercises

Try the anxiety grounding method:

The anxiety grounding method for not blanking out on stage
The anxiety grounding method

It’s important to be aware of the present moment and not get lost in our thoughts. One way to do this is by realizing that our thoughts aren’t really “ours” – they’re just our brain’s way of firing signals.

To calm anxiety, there’s a trick you can try using your fingers. You count down from five, putting down one finger at a time as you go. You can also use your senses to help you focus. Look around and find five things you can see, four things to touch, listen to three sounds, two things you can smell, and pay attention to one thing you can taste.

These activities help shift your attention away from your thoughts and bring you back to the present moment during a conversation. There are other methods you can try too, like meditation, practicing gratitude, or counting specific things in your surroundings (like how many windows there are in a building) These techniques help break the cycle of thought: “I know what to say but I blank out” and make you feel more centered.

Breathing exercises to do when your insides scream: I know what to say but I will blank out

Breathing exercises that you should know for not blanking out
Breathing exercises for blanking out
1. Belly Breathing:

Use the Belly breathing technique to improve your speaking skills without blanking out. This technique involves taking deep breaths using your diaphragm (a muscle located below your lungs) Helping you calm your mind and body, reducing stress and anxiety while promoting focus and clarity. Practicing belly breathing can significantly help you whenever you feel nervous. You can practice this any time before or after your speech. Start by finding a quiet and comfortable place where you can sit or stand with good posture.

Place one hand on your belly. Breathing in slowly through your nose, allowing your belly to rise as you fill your lungs with air. Exhale slowly through your mouth, feeling your belly lower. Repeat this deep breathing pattern several times to feel relaxed and centered. If you want to regulate your breathing and promote a calm state of mind, box breathing is for you. It involves inhaling, holding, exhaling, and holding again, all for equal counts.

2. Box breathing:

Box breathing helps center yourself by regulating your breath. Helping you get rid of stress brings you back to focus. Giving you mental clarity. Imagine tracing the shape of a box as you go through the following steps:

  • Inhale: Breathe slowly and deeply through your nose while mentally counting to four. Imagine tracing the first side of the box.
  • Hold: Hold your breath for the same count of four. Imagine tracing the second side of the box.
  • Exhale: Exhale slowly and fully through your mouth for a count of four. Imagine tracing the third side of the box.
  • Hold: Hold your breath for another count of four. Imagine tracing the final side of the box.

This will make sure that you are grounded when the thought of: I know what to say, but I blank out hits you out of nowhere.

Do you blank out and don’t know what to say because of a panic attack?

“That’s just your heart giving your sternum a high five. 50 times a second.”

— Andrea Gibson, “Ode to the Public Panic Attack

Though one might think there’s not much of a difference between anxiety and a panic attack. You should understand that these two terms are closely related but are different experiences altogether. A panic attack is when the amygdala is part of your brain that is involved in processing fear causing your body to overreact. For example, when someone has a panic attack, their body gets ready to protect itself, as if a lion is chasing them.

But even though there’s no real danger, the body reacts as if there is. Panic attacks have the effect of triggering the body’s fight-or-flight response almost immediately on instinct. Overwhelming anxiety can quickly turn into a panic attack if not taken control of. You can take control of these physical sensations when you think: I know what to say but I blank out. Doing the following exercises will make you feel comfortable and composed rather than feeling like a hot mess.

Here’s what you can do when you blank out during any social event due to a panic attack:

  1. Muscle exercises
  2. Identify your thoughts
  3. Sour candy and cold compression

Muscle exercises for promoting relaxation when you feel know what to say but you blank out:

Muscle exercises to avoid blanking out
Muscle exercises when feeling disassociated from a talk
1. Shoulder Shrugs:

Shoulder shrugs involve lifting and lowering your shoulders in a gentle, but controlled motion. It’s a great way to release tension in your shoulders and neck. Lift your shoulders towards your ears as you inhale deeply, hold for a few seconds, and then exhale as you lower them back down. Repeat this motion several times to release any tension and feel more at ease. Shoulder shrugs help in relieving muscle tension, promoting relaxation, and increasing blood flow to your brain. Overall improving focus and preventing stiffness. Try shoulder shrugs whenever you feel that tension in your body is starting to build up.

2. Jaw Relaxation:

We tend to clench the jaw or experience jaw tension while speaking especially when we feel scared or nervous. This method involves consciously relaxing and loosening the muscles of your jaw. Relaxing your jaw helps alleviate tension, prevents teeth clenching, and enables clear articulation while speaking. Do it any time before and during your speech or whenever you notice your jaw tightening.

Start by gently opening your mouth wide, as if you are yawning. Then, let your jaw relax and hang loosely. Move your jaw from side to side, allowing the muscles to stretch and release. You can also massage your jaw muscles with your fingertips in circular motions. Repeat these exercises to release tension in your jaw and promote a more relaxed speaking experience.

By practicing these breathing and muscle exercises, you can reduce anxiety, increase focus, and improve your overall speaking performance. Remember to breathe deeply using your belly, perform shoulder shrugs to release tension, and relax your jaw to enhance clarity while speaking.

Identify your thoughts when you’re at a loss for words and don’t know what to say and go blank: 

Steer your thoughts in a different direction replacing them with more accurate thoughts. For example, when you are thinking that all the people in the room hate you already. Understand that these are the people whom you’ve only met for the first time and they can’t hate you. And they are not a threat. This helps in consciously controlling your breathing when your brain knows that you are safe.

Sour candy and cold compression:

Carrying sour candy with you can be helpful in situations that may trigger panic attacks. The strong taste of sour candy can shock your senses and divert your attention, potentially preventing a panic attack from fully taking hold. Other physical symptoms that you might face before blanking out during a public speaking event are feeling flushed, perspiring and the temperature of your body rising due to all that nervousness.

When you are down with the symptoms of a cold, you use hot compression to reverse the temperature of your body. Here’s what you can do to instantly calm down. Bring a cold-water bottle. You can hold the bottle as you talk and that will instantly help you feel better than before. So, this won’t even feel awkward, or you can try putting a small ice pack in your pocket. So, this won’t even feel awkward, or if you try putting a small ice pack in your pocket.

Pro-tip: If sour candy is not instantly available, find the nearest washroom and splashing cold water on your face can also help ground you and distract you from the anxiety or the panic attack

These tips will prevent and de-escalate the attacks to a certain extent and prevent you from blanking out, try the strategy that works best for you now that you know what to do!

Blanking out due to awkward silence?

Lorenzo García-Amaya: Using filler words when hesitating during talking

Uncomfortable silence can often make you feel like you have uttered something stupid or offensive. You know the feeling of having an internal dialogue with yourself that goes like “I know what to say but it comes out wrong” The amount of heavy air that awkward silence leaves behind does not only feel like the elephant but like a dinosaur in the room. 

The idea that you always have to keep speaking to have a meaningful conversation is not a great idea. Learn to embrace awkward silences. Think of them as a time to reflect rather than something which constantly needs to be filled in. And if you are not a great fan of embracing awkward silences. Here are some techniques to your rescue when you find yourself without any words and don’t know how to respond without going blank:

What to do when you blank out during a presentation with awkward silence?

  1. Interact with your audience
  2. Give them a relevant fun fact
  3. Embracing the silence

Interact with your audience:

The best way to move your audience’s attention from you towards something meaningful is to actively engage them. Ask them questions about their experiences, opinions, ideas, and beliefs. Keep them relevant to the subject matter at hand. Social scientist Ty Tashiro says that it all comes back to expectations:

“There’s a bias towards extroversion in our culture so when we’re not talking, it’s treated like something’s wrong”

-Ty Tashiro

Give them a relevant fun fact

Dreading the dead air hanging in the very first moments when you walk on stage in the room? Fearing that you will forget all that you had to and wanted to deliver to your audience? Here’s the solution. When you walk on stage the first thing you can do is give them a relevant fun fact about yourself.

Sounds ridiculous? But it’s ridiculously good! How? The fact that you can give them a gist of the story you are about to tell or introduce yourself to them right at the start. That can be catchy and attention-grabbing. The best part is that you can get over the embarrassing part and the heightened self-consciousness. 

Embracing the silence

You don’t always have to say something. It’s okay to not pepper your conversation with filler words. Silence isn’t your enemy to make your conversation downhill. Learn to embrace silence, try speaking fewer words to an extent and you’ll be able to speak without fumbling or blacking out after a long pause without making it feel uncomfortable. While your body can push you into a fight, fight, or freeze mode. Here’s a way to jinx it.

Lack of practice and confidence leads you to blank out?

Suppose you’re giving one of your important oral exams. And during the oral exam that could make it or break the deal for you the answers on the tip of your tongue and you know it, you’re blanking out again. And wonder, “How do I stop my mind from going blank in exams?” The answer is simple practice. Have a strategy in place if you fear that you’ll blank out while giving that presentation. Along with practice, confidence is the key. 

You can do all the practice in the world but lack confidence and can make all the difference. Imagine that every time you worry a balloon is tied up at your waistband. Making you float up and much further.  Away from your audience, your goal destroys your communication process. Now you’d need an anchor to hold you in place, give you amazing confidence with memorization techniques and help you get back on track. Try the practices given below: 

Here is how you can regain composure when you blank out due to a lack of practice or confidence:

  1. Recoding yourself
  2. Using a Trigger Word
  3. Visual Clues
  4. Following the 20-20-20 Rule

Recording yourself:

Practicing by recording yourself will help you greatly enhance your public speaking skills and help prevent blanking out during your talk. By reviewing the recorded footage, you can observe yourself from the perspective of your audience. Allowing you to assess how effectively you communicate both verbally and non-verbally, ensuring that your words align with your actions.

Through self-observation, you can take the time to reflect on your performance and make the necessary adjustments to leave a lasting impression on your audience. To make the most of this practice, find a suitable location that resembles the venue where you will be speaking. This will enable you to practice speaking loudly and comfortably in a setting similar to the actual event and prevent you from blanking out. 

Using a Trigger Word:

Choose a keyword that serves as a mental cue for your main message. This will help you remember the key points you want to convey to your audience. It also aids in identifying important sections to emphasize and unnecessary content to omit from your speech.

Visual Clues: 

Using visual cues eliminates the need to stumble for words or rely on flashcards, allowing for smoother transitions between points. Let’s say you’ve got a presentation so you can incorporate a mind map directly into your presentation. This visual aid will assist in better memorization and engagement. By utilizing various visual elements, you can create an appealing and memorable presentation and remember what to say better.

Following the 20-20-20 Rule:

Follow the 20-20 rule to practice and solidify the content of your talk. Spend twenty minutes carefully reviewing your content, speech structure, and other aspects. Then, rehearse your speech for twenty minutes, twice. Repetition helps improve memory retention and ensures that your speech becomes ingrained in your mind. Applying these techniques can enhance your public speaking skills and minimize the chances of experiencing a mental blank during your next talk so you know what to say when you can’t think of anything. 


Now that you know what to do and how to combat anxiety, stage fright, and panic attacks during any social event, conversation, presentation or speech remember that these tips are there for you to help you out. You can incorporate them into your day-to-day life but not completely rely on them. Be open to embracing professional help. Remember that you professionals always know what to do and guide you better. You can also try public speaking coaching classes to make you better with your communication skills.

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