How to Avoid Brain Freeze When Speaking

Brain Freeze

It’s happened to all of us at least once. You’re prepared, and you’re nervous. And all of a sudden, your mind goes blank. Brain Freeze.

We recently got a question from a participant that we wanted to answer to a wider forum.

Q:  I’m wondering if Decker has any official advice about how people with high amounts of anxiety and a tendency to have ‘brain freeze’ like those with autism spectrum disorders can learn some skills in order to become more effective public speakers?

One of the main complaints we hear is, “If I knew my material better, this wouldn’t have happened.” We freeze because we get in our own way; we put too much stress on ourselves. And sometimes, we can’t help it. So what do we do about it?

We consulted with a behavior analyst, and we have some great tips.

Here are a few things we recommend:

  • Start with a story you know. The power of sharing something personal that ties to your point will help everyone who struggles with brain freeze. Typically, the first 1-2 minutes of any speech or presentation are the hardest part for people who are very nervous. So, open with a story you know well. It could be about how you got to the office that day, a favorite memory, a tried-and-true story or joke that relates to your main point. Once you dive in, be proud of your momentum. You will be more apt to stay on track.
  • Prep with Trigger Words. Have well-organized notes or post-its with “trigger words” that allow you to glance down, pick up your next point and then speak to it. Since many of those on the autism spectrum have visual strengths, using notes and trigger words is especially helpful.
  • Breathe! It’s not just for spin class or yoga class – you also need to breathe when you are in front of a room of people. It’s a good chance to pause, collect your thoughts and quiet your nerves.
  • Get on video beforehand. Yes, here at Decker we are always reminding you to get on video. For those on the autism spectrum, the repetition of practicing on video – and self-monitoring – can help ease anxiety. Try practicing in a space that is as close as possible to the actual environment in which you will present. That way, you can get adjusted to the noise, light and other stimulation.
  • Engage in eye communication. Eye contact can be especially difficult for those on the autistic spectrum, but it is so important for your audience. Look for people who are smiling and nodding. Use their encouragement to glance at your notes and pick right back up, again.

Hope that helps! Feel free to ask us any follow-up questions below, in the comment section.
Or, email us.