Executive Speaking Weblog

Communication – the future of business

Controling Your Thoughts When Speaking

Posted by Presentation Skills on February 6, 2008

Thinking clearly whilst presenting is essential to ensuring your message is delivered in a powerful way.

Your thoughts can be side-tracked by many things and having a plan to counter these challenges is essential. 

First of all, it is important to realise that our thoughts wander all the time. This is caused by our brain working much faster than any other part of our body, including our mouth!  To allow our mouth to ‘catch up’ to our brain, the brain has to temporarily stop its train–of–thought. When this train–of–thought stops, another thought has to take its place. This could be anything from, ‘What will I have for dinner tonight?’ to, ‘What does the audience think of me?’  When the mouth does ‘catch up’ with the brain, the brain is often on another line of thought and has to get back to where it was.  It is the inability to get back to where your thoughts were that causes people to lose their spot.  

This is also why concentrating for extended periods of time is so exhausting; the brain has not had its usual rests! 

What Hinders the Return?

There are many elements that stop your thoughts from getting back on track whilst speaking. These include:

  • subject knowledge
  • amount of preparation
  • nervousness
  • expectations for your self
  • expectations of your audience
  • what you think your audience wants
  • subject knowledge
  • room factors – temperature, noise etc
  • what is riding on your presentation and
  • many others.

These elements combine to distract your thoughts when speaking, and the more salient the element, the more influential it is.   

The distracting elements can have either a positive or negative influence on your thoughts. For example, the more nervous you are, the more difficult it may be to return to your original train–of–thought, but having greater knowledge of your topic, you are more likely to return to the desired thought. Each of these elements will work in different ways for different presentations and different audiences. 

But there is some good news!  Thinking is like any skill or behaviour. The more you practice it, the better you will become. Therefore, the more speaking you do, the more likely you will be to return to the desired thought! 


‘Til next time.




Darren Fleming

Australia’s Public Speaking Coach



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